Protective hypothermia, a medical treatment that lowers a patient’s body temperature, helps to reduce the risk of tissue injury due to insufficient blood-flow after cardiac arrests, strokes, or traumatic brain injuries. Water blankets and wraps have been used to lower patients’ body temperatures since the 1950s, but they can overshoot the temperature goal. The Navy and Air Force Medical Services Agency recently contracted a team to develop a smarter sensor device to help manage patients’ temperatures automatically. Porticos developed the mechanical system for this innovative project, and Porticos also worked on a larger team to deliver the finished product to the Air Force, including a partnership with an electrical & software firm and with the company that owns the intellectual property of the wireless sensor that was used during development.
The result? A light, easily portable system that can quickly stabilize patient temperature to normal, or to induce hypothermia for patients that need it. Called the Patient Thermal Management Device, the unit is capable of both heating and cooling.
How It Works: Smart Sensors
A wireless temperature sensor attached to the patient communicates the patient’s core body temperature to the heating/cooling unit, which automatically adjusts the temperature of coolant flowing through a blanket. The blanket can be placed under and/or over the patient’s body or on a specific injury. The patient’s temperature is adjusted automatically to a target temperature set by the caregiver, by either heating or cooling the blanket.
Cooling is accomplished with a powerful miniature vapor cycle system (much like what is found in typical air conditioning systems). Warming is achieved by rapid resistive heating (like an electric water heater).
No existing, available commercial product could achieve the necessary heating & cooling performance goals, or perform with a wireless sensor, like this innovative system. The entire system weighs about 23 pounds, making it portable for use in hospitals, in transit, or in the field.
The first completed design is plugged into an AC or DC power source. However, the next version, currently in development, will have dual power capabilities so that it can be plugged in or used with internal batteries. Battery operation will improve the device’s usefulness in transit or in the field.
The systems and patient sensors are interchangeable, and the patient blankets and wireless sensors are disposable, one-use products.
About Porticos — Porticos, Inc. is a mechanical engineering and product development company located in Research Triangle Park, NC. Established in 2003, Porticos continues to produce innovative and effective solutions for its clients and the markets they serve. Porticos, Inc. provides mechanical design, analysis, research and development services to clients including Dell, Motorola, Raytheon, and many others. For more information on how Porticos does “product design for the way we’re designed,” please visit www.porticos.net.