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Miniature implantable sensor likely lifesaver for patients

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Nov. 22, 2002 -- Using a tiny wireless sensor developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, doctors will know in minutes instead of hours if an organ is getting adequate blood flow after transplant or reconstructive surgery.

Conventional methods for assessing circulation involve invasive procedures or extensive laboratory testing. In some cases, by the time doctors realize there isn't adequate blood flow to an organ or tissue, irreversible damage already has occurred.

"Our goal is to offer a technique that provides the physician with a very early indication of whether the surgery is successful," said Nance Ericson, who leads the effort from ORNL's Engineering Science and Technology Division. Ericson is working with Mark Wilson, a surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh, and Gerard Cot of Texas A&M University.

The tiny implantable sensor about the diameter of a quarter -- and micro-instrumentation being developed by Ericson would provide real-time information by transmitting data to a nearby receiver. Specifically, the unit employs optical sensors to assess tissue circulation. Preliminary tests using laboratory rats have provided encouraging results.

"Although we have more work to do, we are extremely optimistic that this technology will dramatically improve the ability of physicians to care for critically ill patients," Wilson said.

While Wilson provides the practicing medical component required in this research, Cot, who heads the optical biosensing laboratory within the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M, provides expertise in modeling, post-processing and sensor optimization. Ericson and ORNL colleagues bring to the team vast knowledge in engineering, signal processing, system design, radio frequency telemetry design, and fabrication and micro-fabrication techniques.

Over the next year, Ericson will be working to miniaturize the sensors and associated electronics, which will enab
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Contact: Ron Walli
wallira@ornl.gov
865-576-0226
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory
22-Nov-2002


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