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Light beam replaces blood tests during human heart surgery.

Heart surgery may seem like a standard procedure in this modern age, however, there is always a danger that the patient’s blood may coagulate or clot too quickly, both of which could lead to life-threatening conditions. Coagulation is of particular concern during cardiovascular surgery as a clot can shut down the heart-lung machine used to circulate the patient’s blood. Presently, time-consuming blood tests must be taken throughout the surgery proffering no real-time or continuous monitoring.  Now, researchers from the University of Central Florida develops a way to use light to continuously monitor a patient’s blood, for the first time providing a real-time status during heart surgery.  The team states their novel technology uses an optical fiber to beam light through a patient’s blood to interpret the signals bouncing back, and believe it could replace the need for doctors to wait while blood is drawn from a patient and tested.  The opensource study is published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

Previous studies show historically doctors administer blood-thinning medication to prevent coagulation, however, every 20-30 minutes, blood must be withdrawn and taken to the lab for a test-taking up to 10 minutes. This is a cumbersome test producing gaps of time in the operating theatre without up-to-date information, hindering procedures lasting four hours or more.  The current study develops an optical-fiber-based tool that can be directly incorporated into standard vascular-access devices for real-time monitoring of blood coagulability in the theatre.

The current study develops a machine with an optical fiber capable of tapping directly into the tubes of a heart-lung machine. The group tested the technology during cardiac surgeries on ten infants at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.  Results show the optical fiber beams light up the blood passing through the tubes of the heart-lung machine to detect the light as it bounces back.  Data findings show the machine constantly interprets the light’s back-scatter to determine how rapidly red blood cells are vibrating, with the slow vibration of blood cells indicating the blood is coagulating and a blood-thinner may be needed.

The lab states their optics can alert doctors at the first sign of clotting, and provide nonstop information throughout a long procedure.  They go on to add this provides continuous feedback for the surgeon to make a decision on medication whilst supplying continuous, real-time monitoring not available currently.

The team surmises they have developed a light-based method able to monitor blood coagulation continuously in real-time during a clinical procedure in the operating room.  For the future, the researchers state they absolutely see their technique having potential in the intensive care setting, where it can be part of saving the lives of critically ill patients.

Source: University of Central Florida

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