Programs such as Capstone Design bring together engineering students and medtech industry leaders to free up industry resources and provide students with real-world experience. Here are three examples from Medtronic, GE Healthcare, and 3M.
For GE Healthcare, teams created an electrically powered lift for increasingly weighty CT scanners.
Project 1: GE Scanner
Project Title: GE Scanner Phantom Holder/Lift Device
Industry Sponsor: GE Healthcare
Problem: With the advent of multislice computed tomography (CT) and the ever-increasing need for larger coverage systems, the phantoms used for qualification of CT systems are getting much larger and heavier. This trend means that the large phantoms will be heavier than the allowable weight limit that is safe for a single employee to lift.
Goal of Project: This project focused on the design of a scanner-independent phantom holder/lift mechanism for large phantoms for next-generation CT systems. The goal of this project was to design and test a prototype phantom holder/lift mechanism for large phantoms that can safely be positioned independent of the CT scanner for imaging.
Solution: The team designed an electrically powered lift capable of holding phantoms of at least 100 lb, which translates the phantom vertically, and a micropositioning device to adjust the phantom horizontally and tilt within the bore of the CT scanner. With the necessary amount of counter-weight and swivel wheels, the lift was easy to maneuver and provided a good solution to the problem of accurately positioning large phantoms in the scanner.
Project 2: Medtronic ICD Shock Prevention Device
Project Title: Device to Prevent Shocks from Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs) During Intraoperative Electrocautery
Industry Sponsor: Medtronic USA
Problem: Patients with ICDs who undergo surgery put themselves and the operating physician at risk for inappropriate shocks due to electromagnetic interference introduced by surgical equipment. ICDs are designed to detect arrhythmias such as ventricular fibrillation and deliver high-voltage shocks to the heart to terminate the arrhythmia within a few seconds.
Electromagnetic interference from surgical equipment, such as electrocautery devices, may be falsely interpreted by the ICD as an arrhythmia during surgery, possibly leading to inappropriate delivery of therapy (high-voltage shock). Currently, to avoid the risk of inappropriate shocks, ICD therapies are temporarily suspended to prevent the device from delivering therapy during surgery. The currently available methods for disabling therapies require the Smart Magnet (used by the physician) and the presence of a company representative who manually programs the device to cease detecting arrhythmias. Although both methods serve as effective means for avoiding inappropriate shocks, they are not ideal.
Goal of Project: The project team was asked to use clinical field input to design and build a functional prototype of an alternative method for preventing inappropriate shocks during surgery. The goal of the prototype was to provide a means for a physician to safely suspend ICD therapy delivery with adequate device feedback without the presence of a company representative during surgery.
Solution: Testing of a proof-of-concept prototype to determine technical feasibility confirmed that the device developed by the team remotely suspended ICD therapy delivery and provided adequate feedback to the physician. This prototype served as a cost-effective alternative to the Smart Magnet and manual current programming method while ensuring both the safety of the patient and physician during the surgical procedure.
Project 3: 3M Electronic Stethoscope Tester
Project Title: Method for Testing Electronic Stethoscopes
Industry Sponsor: 3M
Problem: The 3M Health Care Service Center is a support system for servicing broken or damaged stethoscopes. The center reported that a number of undamaged stethoscopes were being sent to it. The process of sending a stethoscope in for repair results in months of lost time, money, and manpower for both the stethoscope owner and the company. Globally, a popular solution to this problem was to replace faulty stethoscopes resulting in a significant loss to 3M.
Goal of Project: The purpose of this project was to create a process and portable prototype device that would allow various models of 3M Littmann electronic stethoscopes to be easily tested on-site for stethoscope functionality. This intermediate step would provide an initial evaluation of a stethoscope to determine if it is truly damaged and in need of repair.
Solution: A portable, sound-isolated case containing a speaker, microphone, and microcontroller interfaced via USB to a computer was developed. Stethoscope functionality was determined by placing the stethoscope chest piece and ear tips into this device. An intuitive user-centered computer interface was used to control the tests performed by the microprocessor. During testing, a sequence of auditory tones was sent to the chest piece via the speaker. The tones were sampled by the chest piece, amplified by the stethoscope, and measured at the ear tips using the microphone. The measured signals were then sent to the microcontroller and computer for analysis to determine if the amplification across frequencies is within 3M specifications. Testing to validate the design indicated that the device provided the desired frequency range to enable the user to determine if the stethoscope is functioning properly or requires servicing. This method is expected to reduce the number of functional stethoscopes sent to the service center.