PhD Innovation Program Student Designs Device to Prevent Hospital Infections
March 6, 2013
Engineering PhD Innovation Program candidate Steve Reinitz ‘09 Th'09 has successfully created medical devices again and again, from a nostril sizer to mend an infant’s cleft lip or palate to a low-cost external fixation tool that stabilizes bone and soft tissue. Now, the Holekamp Family Innovation Fellow has particularly high hopes that his latest contraption, an Inline Intravenous Fluid Sterilizer designed to prevent certain types of hospital acquired infections, will someday pop up on every IV line, in every hospital in the world.
Reinitz’s Inline IV Fluid Sterilizer renders contaminated fluids sterile in less than six seconds through the use of ultraviolet light and a specially designed flow pattern. Mounted on an IV pole, the apparatus contains an ultraviolet light source and a cartridge to direct fluid around the source in an optimized pattern. This prevents fluid-borne bacterial infections caused by contaminated IV lines, which has proven to be the most lethal source of hospital infections, killing approximately 6,000 in the United States each year.
Reinitz and his team, Kathryn Boucher '09 Th'09 and Renee Cottle '07 Th’09, first thought up the Inline IV Fluid Sterilizer in 2008 during a BE-level Engineering Design Methodology course. He and Boucher later partnered with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center’s Dr. Corey Burchman to incorporate a company around the device. The trio is currently developing the Inline IV Fluid Sterilizer, proven effective in bench-top testing with a patent pending, through the Barris Incubator Program, which draws on the expertise of Tuck School of Business and Dartmouth engineering faculty and graduate entrepreneurs.
“At the start of our Engineering Design Methodology project, Dr. Burchman came to our team with the problem of IV line contamination and we originally set out with the goal of preventing these infections, but after interviewing anesthesiologists and nurses and after observing operating room procedures, we determined that there were too many opportunities for contamination and any existing attempt to prevent contamination was highly dependent upon physician compliance,” says Reinitz. “Instead, we took the approach of assuming contamination was inevitable and set our goal at preventing contaminated fluid from entering the patient.”
Course instructors Assistant Professor Doug Van Citters and Myron Tribus Professor of Engineering Innovation John Collier were influential in the creation of the device, and the team’s faculty advisor, Assistant Professor Karl Griswold, helped validate the design. All of the hard work also landed Reinitz and his team the 2009 Thayer School of Engineering Corporate Collaboration Council Engineering Design Prize.
“There is a lot of work to be done before our device reaches FDA approval and is ready for market, but we are actively working to raise capital to push through this development and testing,” says Reinitz. “We as a team truly believe that we have the potential to save thousands of lives with our device, and that is our personal motivation to keep working on this project.”