Implantable drainage catheters, such as those used to drain cerebrospinal fluid in patients with hydrocephalus, tend to eventually get plugged up with fibrin, bacterial biofilms, blood, or as a result of the body’s immune system attacking them. New surgeries are often required to replace the devices, potentially causing serious complications and costing a lot of money, let alone the worry associated with yet another surgery.
Researchers at Purdue University are working on developing catheters that feature an internal mechanism that can be remotely activated to clean their internal lumen.
The Purdue team has already developed a tiny magnetically powered and controlled device that can reside inside a catheter. Applying a magnetic field, which is changed at pre-programmed frequencies, makes the flipper on the mechanism inside the catheter move back and forth. This movement produces a substantial enough force to dislodge nearby material fouling the inside of the catheter. Doing so repeatedly and at different frequencies can produce different pressure waves that can dislodge different types of gunk.
The team hopes that in the future a simple visit to a doctor’s office will be sufficient to keep clear implanted catheters.
Here’s a short video that demonstrates the current state of the technology:
Photo credit: Trevor Mahlmann