A research team in New Jersey has created an automatic blood-drawing device. A biomedical engineering doctoral student at the School of Engineering at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, Josh Leipheimer, and his team of collaborators have worked on the project for four years.
The team conducted a human clinical trial of 31 people. The overall success rate was 87 percent for all people, and for the 25 people who had easy to detect veins the success rate was 97 percent, according to the university’s press release. Venipuncture, the procedure in which a needle punctures a vein, is the most common clinical procedure. Leipheimer decided to work on this device to hopefully allow clinicians the ability to conduct the procedure with higher speed and accuracy.
“It uses ultrasound imaging, a sort of echo location which sends sound waves into the arm, and then the device will be able to tell where the vessel is in the arm. And then from there, it can perform the necessary needle alignments and insert the needle into the vessel with high precision and accuracy,” Leipheimer explained.
He said the most challenging part was calibrating the ultrasound technology with the “robotics” or hardware. It took many rounds of trial and error before reaching this point. They were working on a similar device before this one, but the difference is that one was completely automated.
That led to the idea to create a handheld version because of the uneasiness some people may feel when they hear about a robot taking blood.
“Previously we had developed a benchtop device where the robot did, ideally, almost all of the procedure, with little human supervision required,” Leipheimer told NTD. “And my motivation for taking this into a handheld-operated device is that, while the device is performing the insertion, it’s still human-assisted. It’s still human-operated.”
He said that in the future he hopes it can help speed up the process of taking blood by locating the vessels faster. He also hopes the accuracy of needle insertion can prevent patients with harder to detect veins from being poked multiple times before a successful puncture.
This was the first clinical trial, and the team will use the data obtained to improve it. There are still some tweaks and fine-tuning to do to make it user-friendly and a bit more convenient before it can be commercialized.