Nonvisual endotracheal intubation

Rapid location identification of an ETI tube via hyperspectral imaging

Medical & Biotechnology

Army scientists have developed an airway tube that distinguishes between tracheal and esophageal tissues during endotracheal intubation (ETI) procedures. The patent-pending technology is available via license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

The Army’s new ETI method and device prevent complications by making this life-saving procedure safer, faster, and more accurate. (Simon Orlob/Pixabay)

ETI is a frequent life-saving medical procedure, often performed in an emergency medicine environment when a patient cannot sufficiently breathe on their own. Failed intubations can lead to death through hypoxemia or unrecognized intubation of the esophagus. Even successful intubations, if delayed or performed poorly, can still result in significant adverse events, such as cardiac arrest, hypotension, or asphyxiation due to patient aspiration. Consequently, there is a need for a nonvisual detection mechanism for confirming the ETI placement during the procedure.

Army scientists have developed an airway management method and device using hyperspectral imaging and fiber-optic sensing to distinguish tracheal and esophageal tissues. The researchers first studied the spectral reflectance properties of the tracheal and esophageal tissues. Scientists used a hyperspectral camera to image excised pig tissue samples exposed to white and UV light to capture their spectral reflectance properties. The results characterized a unique and consistent spectral reflectance profile of tracheal tissue, thereby providing foundational support for exploiting spectral properties to detect the trachea during medical procedures.

The patent-pending method and device based on this research is an airway tube with both a light-emitting element and a photo-sensing element integrated at the insertion tip. The light emitted from the tube illuminates adjacent tissues, and the photo-sensing component receives the resulting reflectance spectra. The signal processor and conduit connected to the photo-sensing element transfer the information to the spectrum analyzer which determines the unique spectral properties and its associated tissue, thereby identifying the location of the tube and ensuring correct placement.

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