Studies of a new wireless device has demonstrated early warning of the potential failure of breast reconstruction surgery, assisting patients with breast cancer recovery.
Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and led by Imperial College London, UK, an international team has developed the new wireless device, ‘bio-patch’, as part of the Smart Sensing for Surgery project. The device is designed to highlight if there are any complications regarding breast reconstruction, with the essential aim of helping patients with their breast cancer recovery.
What do we know about this new wireless device?
Incorporating electronics measuring just 1.8 x 1.1cm, the bio-patch was attached to a group of patients for 48 hours following breast reconstruction surgery. It successfully performed continuous monitoring of the level of oxygen saturation in transferred tissue – which is a key indicator of whether there is a risk of reconstruction failure.
Harnessing a method known as near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), the new wireless device safely captures and communicates information using sensors hermetically sealed inside fully biocompatible materials. To ensure security and privacy the data is encrypted.
Being a non-invasive imaging technique, NIRS measures the level of radiation in the near-infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum and identifies how much is absorbed by the biological or chemical sample being examined.
How can this help with breast cancer recovery?
Following a mastectomy, breast reconstruction surgery generally includes transfer of the patient’s own tissue to help rebuild the breast. This process achieves high success rates, but early detection of possible problems could help further reduce post-surgical complications and reduce surgery failure rates.
Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, Director of the Hamlyn Centre at Imperial College London said: “Poor blood supply or failure of breast reconstruction surgery can have a major impact on a breast cancer patient’s recovery, prognosis and mental wellbeing.”
“Clinical signs of failure often occur late and patients may be returned to the operating room on clinical suspicion.”
“Our new bio-patch tackles this problem by providing objective data as an early warning system for medical staff, enabling earlier and simpler interventions, as well as giving patients increased peace of mind.”
Future prospects of the device
Early trials have opened up the prospect of the bio-patch becoming available for widespread clinical use within 2-3 years.
The new wireless device is now also being adapted to help monitor conditions such as dementia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Professor Yang concludes: “The Smart Sensing for Surgery project demonstrates how engineers and clinicians can come together to develop ‘smart’ solutions that have huge potential not just to enhance patient health and wellbeing but also to help reduce the burden on healthcare resources.”