Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Inventions: Engineering a Better E.R.

Inventors: Professors Vikrant Vaze, Ryan Halter, and Jonathan Elliot

Vikrant Vaze
Courtesy of Vikrant Vaze.

The problem is easy to describe.

“Emergency providers don’t currently have a good way to predict which patients will remain stable and which will go into shock,” explains Dr. Norman Paradis, an emergency physician at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) and a professor of emergency medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. The solution requires the collaboration between doctors and engineers. 

In October, a team from DHMC and Thayer School were granted $3 million from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to develop what principal investigator Paradis describes as “a noninvasive system that gives an accurate and early alarm that a patient has begun to deteriorate.”

Battleground Innovations
Photo by Marco Di Lauro / Getty Images.

Pentagon interest in the system began in 2007 with an email from Baghdad by battlefield doctors. “There are three groups of casualties,” they wrote, “the ones who are really sick and (almost) everyone knows it; the ones who have minimal injuries and will live almost regardless of what we do; those who look like they aren’t too bad but then deteriorate. We are most interested in identifying group three.” 

“DoD put out a request for applications that was literally a description of what we wanted to do,” says Paradis. “We had this idea and filed patents.” 

Professor Vikrant Vaze leads Thayer’s team that will make this new system happen. Professor Ryan Halter is the electrical bioimpedance specialist. Professor Jonathan Elliot handles optical sensing. Vaze is an expert in machine learning, healthcare analytics, and healthcare systems modeling. 

“Machine learning is gigantic and the most worrisome of the three technoglies vital to the project because it hasn’t been all that successful so far in biomedical,” said Paradis. “Fortunately, Vikrant Vaze not only knows how to do this, but he also knows how to think critically about it.” 

Don’t expect new gizmos to come out of Thayer’s labs. The needed technology already exists. 

“The novelty isn’t the individual components, but the way the components are hooked together and how the information coming from those components is used,” says Vaze. “What will make this system unique will be its ability to compile measurements from multiple points in the patient’s body and then make a meaningful prediction. 

“We are at the very early stage of this,” says Vaze. “The DoD research that we are conducting is more to support the science behind the device than to construct the device itself. If we can validate these ideas, we’ll be in a place where we can say ‘we can do this’ and go ahead and build the device. If I were to guess, we might have something in two to four years. In the meantime, there is a lot of testing and a lot of research.” 

Dr. Paradis sees the grant as the first step on a path toward a new line of medical devices, and foresees the use of this system in civilian hospitals to monitor victims of car crashes and other traumatic injuries.“The long-term dream, if we develop a methodology for these developing technologies, is applying them in cardiogenic shock and sepsis shock,” says Paradis. 

—Lee Michaelides

Categories: Inventions

Tags: faculty, history, innovation

comments powered by Disqus