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Wireless Device Aids Recovery of Breast Cancer Patients

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 22 Nov 2018
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Image: A biocompatible sensor monitors breast reconstruction surgery outcomes (Photo courtesy of EPSRC).
Image: A biocompatible sensor monitors breast reconstruction surgery outcomes (Photo courtesy of EPSRC).
A new sensing device can provide early warning of the potential failure of breast reconstruction surgery, making it easier to take effective remedial action.

Developed by researchers at Imperial College London (Imperial; United Kingdom), Covidien (Dublin, Ireland) and other institutions participating in the Smart Sensing for Surgery project, the wireless ‘bio-patch’ incorporates hermetically sealed sensors and an electronics board--measuring just 1.8 x 1.1cm--integrated with fully biocompatible materials. The wireless device harnesses near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) to safely capture and transmit encrypted data, ensuring patient security and privacy.

In a recent clinical study, a group of patients wore the bio-patch for 48 hours after undergoing breast reconstruction surgery. The device successfully performed continuous monitoring of oxygen saturation levels in transferred tissue, a key indicator of whether there is a potential risk of reconstruction failure. The device is currently being adapted to help monitor other medical conditions, such as dementia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“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,” said Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, PhD, of ICL, leader of the Smart Sensing for Surgery project. “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.”

“This Smart Sensing for Surgery project is an excellent example of how science and engineering can have direct impacts on people’s lives,” said Professor Lynn Gladden, PhD, executive chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC; Swindon, United Kingdom). “Spotting post-surgery problems early can help clinicians treat patients quickly and improve outcomes. It is particularly heartening to hear about the application of this technology during Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Breast reconstruction involves using autologous tissue or prosthetic material to construct a natural-looking breast; this often includes reformation of a natural-looking areola and nipple. Generally, the aesthetic appearance is acceptable, but the reconstructed area is often completely numb, which results in loss of sexual function as well as the ability to perceive pain.

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