At Northwestern University a new wearable shunt monitor has been developed that may revolutionize how people with hydrocephalus are cared for. Currently, implanted shunts are typically used to drain cerebrospinal fluid into the abdomen, preventing it from building up in the brain.
Though they’re very effective, they tend to clog up and cause all kinds of unpleasant and painful side effects. Diagnosing a failed shunt is challenging, requiring a visit to the hospital to undergo CT or MR imaging, or even surgery. Researchers led by John A. Rogers at Northwestern University have now developed a flexible stick-on device that can quickly and easily diagnose shunt failures.
The device is placed over the shunt and it slightly raises the temperature of the skin beneath. If fluid is flowing through the shunt, the heat of the skin changes at a different rate than when the shunt is plugged. A sensor detects this change, and using Bluetooth the device transmits its reading to a paired smartphone, for example.
Readings are acquired within five minutes and an initial study on five adults, the device was able to effectively detect malfunctions.
“This means if someone wants to check if their shunt is working, say, when they have a headache, they can quickly do what we call a ‘spot measurement,’” said co-lead author Tyler Ray, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Rogers Research Group. “This device can also measure flow throughout the day enabling, for the first time, the possibility of continuously monitoring shunt performance. This can lead to important insights into the dynamics of cerebral spinal fluid flow previously inaccessible with current diagnostic tools and flow measurement techniques.”
Top image: A shunt protruding from the brain during surgery; A researcher solders a new wearable shunt monitor; A woman wears a new wearable shunt monitor on her neck.
Study in Science Translational Medicine: Epidermal electronics for noninvasive, wireless, quantitative assessment of ventricular shunt function in patients with hydrocephalus…