Digital manufacturer Protolabs (NYSE:PRLB) announced today that MedStar Health (Columbia, Md.) and Cleveland Clinic Innovations are joint winners of the company’s Cool Idea Award: Healthcare Grant. These grants provide in-kind manufacturing services to the support development of medical products to spur innovation in the field.
MedStar Health’s gravity-feed syringe holder simplifies the feeding of newborns who spend their early days in special, temperature-controlled incubators while being cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Currently, depending on the number of newborns and how often they feed, a nurse can spend hours each day holding a syringe above an incubator while milk or liquid formula drains into the baby’s stomach via a tube.
This invention could free the nurse for other duties while still attending to the baby during feeding. The compact device can hold four different sizes of syringes and was designed to be suspended from the top of the incubator or attached to an IV pole, expanding its use outside the NICU.
The invention also illustrates the premise that simple, well-designed solutions can have a substantial impact on patient care, according to ProtoLabs, whose grant was used to improve the device’s design. The iterative 3D-printing process helped identify several improvements to the prototype, including: smoothing the corners, adding sturdier syringe clips and incorporating gaskets to keep infants safe while protecting the incubator. Clamps securely fasten the gravity feeder device to an IV pole.
“Protolabs’ assistance will help us move our gravity feed syringe holder from concept to a working part of our neonatal practice,” said its inventor, nurse Tiffany Morris, who works in the NICU at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center. “Our team hopes this small device can be a major step forward for NICU nursing and potentially for patient care in other settings.”
“We are proud that this award recognizes the innovative ideas our MedStar Health associates have to treat people and advance health,” added Stephen Kinsey, director of MedStar Inventor Services, in a news release. “The award also demonstrates the power of our partnerships with Cleveland Clinic Innovations and Protolabs, as we work together to transform ideas into clinical practice.”
Enteral feeding tube user and inventor Andy Williams teamed up with Dr. Eric Blumrosen of Cleveland Clinic to invent a tube that can reduce leakage, skin irritation and infections that plague people who use enteral feeding tubes. Protolabs’ in-kind manufacturing grant gave Cleveland Clinic Innovations access to manufacturing engineers who helped improve the device’s design for commercial use. It also helped fund prototype injection molded parts.
In current practice, a feeding tube is surgically placed directly into the digestive tract, but that interface is prone to significant leakage. The highly acidic fluids can irritate and injure patients, and make social lives very difficult, preventing patients from living normal lives.
Williams has struggled with using an enteral feeding tube for years. “I was in the hospital in the emergency room on average once a week, sometimes two times a week, for infections caused from leakage around my feeding tube,” he said in a news release from ProtoLabs. “I was hospitalized once a month for infections — sometimes for up to a week-long period. Then, I’d have to take antibiotics at home for three to four weeks.”
The new tube protects the stoma by forming a wide seal around an enclosed hole into which the tube is inserted. This eliminates issues with friction where the tube rubs against the skin. It also provides a more focused opening that enhances the seal surrounding the tube, and allows limited motion of the tube. In the end, the device will be more comfortable, reduce irritation, and significantly improve long-term quality-of-life, according to ProtoLabs.
“The leak stopper will let bedridden patients lead a more active life,” said Williams. “Right now, for most people who experience leaks, it’s the number one thing on their mind all day. This invention will let them push it to the back of their minds and go on with normal activities.”
“Protolabs is proud to champion innovation in the medical field,” said company president & CEO Vicki Holt. “These healthcare grants and the manufacturing services that come with them help important health-focused projects improve hundreds of thousands of lives each year.”