Injeq, a resident at GE’s Health Innovation Village in Helsinki, created a smart needle that tells the user about surrounding tissue for safer liver biopsies and lumbar punctures.
The Finnish company’s device looks like a standard hypodermic needle, but with an electrode attached to the tip. The needle measures changes in signal caused by contact with surrounding tissue. While a doctor is performing a lumbar puncture, the device will tell the doctor what type of tissue the needle is near and when they approach cerebrospinal fluid.
The device can also warn a doctor know when the needle is approaching nerves, preventing painful nerve damage.
The most pressing clinical need is for neonatal lumbar punctures, CEO Kai Kronström said. The company is also collaborating with GE to study the device with adult lumbar punctures and liver biopsies, GE reported.
Normally, doctors use computer tomography (CT) scans or an ultrasound to guide their needles during a lumbar puncture. But neither type of scan is always accurate, so doctors have to repeat the painful procedure. A smart needle could eliminate the need for a CT scan, which exposes patients to radiation, according to Injeq.
The company reports positive results for both lumbar punctures and liver biopsies. In a clinical trial, doctors using the smart needle for a liver biopsy were able to determine if there was a tumor in real-time on the first try.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Monitoring & Computing last month showed that in all 45 adult lumbar punctures, the smart needle accurately detected cerebrospinal fluid.
“Most doctors do not like the blind punctures that they need to do on a daily basis,” said Arvi Yli-Hankala, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of Tampere who is involved with Injeq IQ-Needle studies. “Technology that continuously and in real time detects the nature of tissues during puncture will help immensely.”