Evaluation of innovative, small medical devices for improving current diagnostic and interventional medical procedures

This project is focused on the development of novel lifesaving technologies for abdominal surgery and gastrointestinal endoscopy. 

The gastrointestinal tract is home to inflammatory bowel diseases and various types of cancer. These cancers are some of the most severe and common in the world, however, if diagnosed early, patient survival can be drastically improved. The current gold-standard for the diagnosis of bowel conditions (flexible endoscopy) has some drawbacks, including high patient discomfort, high skills required to perform the procedure, high costs resulting from the complexity of the technology, and infrequent but serious complications for the patients.

Around two million minimally invasive bowel procedures are performed annually in Europe. This surgery typically uses anywhere from three to six incisions, with each incision increasing the potential for life-threatening complication. A critical challenge in surgical science is to minimise the size and number of incisions. Hence, surgeons are looking to engineers to develop cost-effective and easy-to-use technologies capable of accessing the gastrointestinal tract in patients with minimal discomfort or complications.

The proposed work will aim to develop, test and evaluate novel devices, concepts and technologies to address some of the challenges faced by surgeons in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of bowel conditions and help to refine existing procedures such as gastrointestinal endoscopy in humans. The following questions will be answered:

  • Is the concept feasible? 
  • What is the best and most appropriate design? 
  • Is the device safe and suitable for clinical use? 

Each design will first go through a rigorous set of simulation and benchtop trials to evaluate the core concept. If successful and approved by clinical collaborators, the device will then be tested in an animal model. Animal testing is a required step before using novel technologies in patients and it is crucial to simulate the biological conditions found in the human body and assess safety.

Testing in animals is only performed when necessary and after the device has passed extensive testing on bench-top and in human cadavers. The work proposed here will use pigs obtained from commercial farms. The entire testing procedure will be carried out under general anaesthesia. After the procedure is completed, the animal will be humanely killed without regaining consciousness. Normally one device will be tested in no more than two animals before a decision is made about its fate. We have trained staff and equipment available in our engineering laboratory to develop, test and evaluate devices at bench-top before setting up animal experiments. Suitable facilities and trained staff are also available to care for animals used for this work. The anaesthesia and minimally invasive design of devices ensure the animal discomfort is minimised. We do not expect any adverse events during the procedures proposed. In the unlikely event of a complication, the animal will be humanely killed immediately.

Non-technical summary 

Read evaluation of innovative, small medical devices for improving current diagnostic and interventional medical procedures non-technical summary (PDF).

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