Every year millions of patients around the world need intravenous (IV) therapy. IV lines are used for delivering everything from medication to blood, saline and nourishment.
But this essential medical tool has an inherent risk. Caregivers must diligently monitor the IV fluid level and promptly replace it or switch off the infusion line when it gets low. Failing to do so can result in reverse blood flow and a high risk of developing a blood clot in the needle, which in turn may damage the blood vessel and require using another blood vessel to keep the IV going.
But changing an IV can be painful and traumatic, especially for geriatric and pediatric patients whose blood vessels are delicate, and hard to get a needle into. Other possible complications from a failure to monitor IV fluid levels include inflammation of the vein and air embolism.
Dr. Harendra Joshi, a physician who recently immigrated to Canada from India, had an idea for reducing the hazards of having busy staff monitor IV lines. Through his research institution, Joshi Health Inc. he developed his concept for a sensor to track IV fluid levels. To bring his idea to life, he turned to the new Wearable, Interactive, and Mobile Technology Access Centre in Health (WIMTACH) at Centennial College in Toronto.
WIMTACH’s multidisciplinary team worked rapidly to build a “fluid level indicating sensor,” the novel medical device Dr. Joshi envisioned. They created a battery-operated prototype, with electronic and mechanical components. Its liquid crystal display provides continuous monitoring of the fluid level in an IV bag, and sends alerts as soon as the IV fluid falls below a set level.
The team worked for several weeks to perfect the device, enabling push notifications through Google Cloud messaging, ensuring the strength of the signal and testing its automatic shut off. Using Wi-Fi and cellular data, mobile devices, and an audio signal at the patient’s bed site, the fluid level indicating sensor notifies providers, wherever they are, when an IV bag is nearing empty.