Currently the treatment of hydrocephalus involves the surgical implantation of a tube known as a ‘shunt’ to drain excess fluid out of the brain. Shunts have a nearly 100 percent failure rate over 10 years, and diagnosing a failure is especially difficult.
The Northwestern University (NU), in the United States, successfully tested the device, a wearable shunt monitor, on five adult patients with hydrocephalus.
The sensor, developed by the Rogers Research Group at NU, allows patients in the study to determine within five minutes of placing it on their skin if fluid was flowing through their shunt. The soft and flexible sensor uses measurements of temperature and heat transfer to non-invasively tell if and how much fluid is flowing through. Given the uncertainty and failure rates associated with shunts, the technology could improve the quality of life for nearly a million people in the U.S. alone.
“We envision you could do this while you’re sitting in the waiting room waiting to see the doctor,” said co-lead author Siddharth Krishnan, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in the Rogers Research Group. “A nurse could come and place it on you and five minutes later, you have a measurement.”