A new device developed by students of the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) promises to ease the workload of nurses by eliminating the need to check for bleeding in their patients every 15 minutes after they have had tubes removed.

The device, known as BWard, is 4cm in diameter and 1.7cm wide and is place over a wound dressing. If it detects blood, it will set off an alarm, alerting the nurses at their station.

The device is one of 13 projects in a three-year partnership worth a total of S$2.2 million funded by SUTD and the Eastern Health Alliance, which includes Changi General Hospital, polyclinics and the Health Promotion Board.

BWard: Patented and in prototype phase

The BWard is currently in a prototyping phase and is used mainly for patients who have catheters inserted in their veins for dialysis.

"It would save one and a half to two hours in monitoring time, so we can deploy nurses for more complex procedures," said Dr. Chionh Chang Yin, chief consultant of the Department of Renal Medicine at Changi General Hospital, who worked with the students on the device.

Nurses usually have to check on patients every 15 minutes for the first two hours after the catheters have been removed. In total, the procedure of manual monitoring wounds, takes six hours, he added. The continuous monitoring through the device also reduces the chances of delayed detection and nurses will not need to expose the groin areas of patients, where catheters are usually inserted, adding to patient comfort.

The device was designed with aims to be compact and sensitive to blood, said Terry Ching, a SUTD graduate who worked on the device.

The BWard has been patented in Singapore, along with two other projects, one of which is a drainage device which automates the removal of excess fluid in the lungs, called the Fuga Digital Chest Drain Device.

Fuga Digital Chest Drain Device automates fluid removal from lungs

The current method of removing fluid involves inserting a chest tube into a patient's pleural cavity, requiring trained personnel to monitor the time-consuming procedure, said Chin Joon Keat who worked on the device for his final-year project.

The project was inspired by Ching Tsz Him, who was a member of the group behind the Fuga device. He had chanced upon the problem of chest drain procedures during his internship at Changi General Hospital and together with his mentor there, developed this idea to solve the problem.

However it was not as easy as thought to be.

"The thing with medical devices is that when you design, you have to bear in mind the concern of sterilisation. You have to be able to sterilise these devices without them being compromised," said Ching.

The device is a white box with an electronic panel to control it and has been well-received. The box contains a syringe that is connected to a three way tap. Doctors or nurses just have to set the amount of fluids to be drained and the speed at which it is drained. The rest of the procedure is automated, eliminating the need for monitoring and when the fluid is drained out from the lungs into the syringe, the tap will turn and direct the flow of the fluid out the body completely - eliminating the risk of backflow.

The device is low-cost as it incorporates things that the hospital already has, such as the syringes, said Ching. The other project is a lung simulation model for education, which is supposedly more realistic than those currently in the market.

"These projects have the potential of transforming the way care is delivered," said Dr. Lee Chien Earn, Group chief executive of Eastern Health Alliance. MIMS

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