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Archive for November, 2015

Clinical engineering visit to Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital

Adam PGibson13 November 2015

By Nishat Ahmed and Bindia Venugopal

On Wednesday the 11th of November, we were up at the crack of dawn, pumped and ready to go to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore. After missing trains due to tube closures and our taxi rides arriving a half hour late, we finally managed to reach the hospital in time to attend the Multi-Disciplinary Team meeting.

We found the meeting very interesting, watching the consultant surgeons and nurses discuss real case studies of patients. They collaborated well to work out the best way to rehabilitate patients, whether this was through further surgery or simply giving them advice and support.

Later on we headed to the operation theatres, adhering to hospital dress code we threw on our scrubs, hair nets and masks beforehand! Since we were only allowed three students at a time in the theatres, we split into groups and then went off to watch various operations taking place. The first surgery we watched involved attaching a metal plate to a fractured tibia bone to aid its healing process in a way that was ingenious! It was fascinating watching the surgeon screw the bone together and then brace the join with a metal plate. The screws held the fracture under compression, this meant it was forced to combine together rather than slide apart, and the metal plate stopped it from twisting.

The second surgery we went to was an extremely rare case where the surgeons ended up dislocating the hip bone in order to remove a benign tumour from inside the bone. They sawed the hip bone in half as bone-to-bone healing worked best compared to tendon-to-bone healing. The challenge was in trying to avoid damaging the femoral head to get to the tumour.

After this we had a little tea break and then made way to our next surgery! This was a spinal surgery where the patient had a twisted spine due to being paralysed for 10 years. They operated with a diathermy machine which uses electricity to cut through the skin and muscles as this reduces blood loss. Although we only saw the surgery for 10 minutes we learnt how vital it was to keep the fluids in the patient regulated. This job was monitored by the anaesthetist, who informed us about the patient and the precautions which needed to be taken. Two neurophysiologists were monitoring electrical activity in the spinal cord to ensure that it wasn’t damaged by the surgery.

Scrubbed up

After an insane experience watching all the surgeries, we went to have lunch which was provided by the lovely team at Stanmore. In the afternoon we got a tour around the BME department at the hospital and learnt about all the weird and wonderful things they collect and experiments they run! In fact, we found out that they have over 6000 failed hip replacements from 25 different countries in their labs to study and analyse. They conduct experiments to research why implant failure happens in some patients the way it does, especially those with metal on metal implants. They use tools for metrology which measures the exact size of the ball and socket implants with crazy precision! This information is then used to work out the amount of corrosion that happened in the body when the implants were inserted.

Overall, we had an amazing and truly valuable experience. The entire team were extremely friendly and helpful! We loved that we could ask questions and interact with the staff so well. It was remarkable to see the transition from a real-life patient problem to actually seeing the solution executed in the surgeries. It was also encouraging to see how the hospital carries out their own research which can then be implemented to the surgery procedures in only a few years’ time.

On behalf of our whole BME department, we thank you for this experience Professor Hart and RNOH!

“Oh God this is so cool! Do we really have to stick to our budget?!”

Adam PGibson9 November 2015

By Jenny Griffiths

Scenarios are a highlight of our new biomedical engineering programme. In a scenario, all lectures stop and students spend the whole week working on a group project where they solve a biomedical engineering problem. Last week, our second year students worked with Jenny Griffiths to build articles of smart clothing. Their brief was to design and build an item of clothing to monitor a marathon runner’s wellbeing and give an alert to inform the runner and all those around them to prevent injury. Students were encouraged to be creative and develop their own solutions as long as their device met the design brief and was safe.DSC00656

Jenny provided the students with a range of components, mainly centered around the Adafruit Flora wearable arduino. We gave them sensors including temperature and pressure sensors, accelerometers, GPS, UV and light sensors and stretchy conductive rubber. Outputs included buzzers, vibration motors, Bluetooth connectivity and programmable RGB LEDs, but they were only allowed to use up to £40 for materials. The task built upon electronics modules which students took last year, and a clinical engineering module which includes lectures on transducers which the students are taking at the moment.

We put the students into random groups and let them loose!

shoesTwo groups chose to design their own sensors from scratch to monitor electrolyte concentration in sweat. They quickly learnt how challenging it is to build a robust sensor! They sewed their home-made sensors into running shirts with conductive thread and used the arduino to control LEDs based on the resisitivity of the sensor. Another group built an arm band to monitor skin temperature. They learnt that packing 10 LEDs, a microcontroller, batteries and an temperature sensor into a package the size of a iphone can lead to wiring complexities. The winning group instrumented a running shoe with pressure-sensitive pads to measure gait continuously during the running cycle. They sewed their Flora onto the shoe and daisy-chained LEDs around the shoe with conductive thread. They went shopping to find low-cost trainers which fitted a team member and also gave them something additional to write about in their sustainability analysis.

 

Range of smart clothing

Students enjoyed the scenario, some saying this was the first time they’d ever worked as a team under pressure. They were ambitious and undaunted by such an open-ended task. Despite one team doing a complete redesign at the beginning of Day 4 out of 5, project management and budgeting were good even when students were tempted to go over budget (see  title of post!). All worked hard and Jenny had fun leading it, with great support from Eve, the lab technician. All enjoyed the occasional punctuations from smoking components and whoops of success. There’s now competing demand for the clothing, with students wanting to take them home to show family and friends and us wanting to hang onto them to entice prospective students in UCAS visits to join us next year.