E-Team to Develop an Oxygen Flow Indicator for Hospital Transport

University of Pittsburgh, 2001 - $13,085

The Center for Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh discovered that some patients experience decompensation during transport while on oxygen support. Decompensation is a life-threatening problem that occurs when a patient's oxygen supply tubing develops a kink or when oxygen depletes within the storage cylinders. No device exists to indicate the flow of oxygen through a patient's tube. In fact, the only current method of determining if a patient is experiencing decompensation is to see if their face turns blue.

In response to this need for an oxygen flow monitor, this E-Team developed the Spindicator, a device made up of a cylindrical tube, an inline impeller, and gas inlet/outlet. Oxygen flowing through the tube forces the impeller to spin. To make impeller monitoring easy, the team painted the impeller two distinct colors that a person can detect from a minimum of six feet away. If the device fails, the inline impeller design facilitates oxygen flow to the patient. The Spindicator attaches to the nasal attachment or face mask just below the patient's face.

At a preliminary survey at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, 72% of those surveyed expressed extreme support of the product. Across the US, about 1,500 hospitals need to provide oxygen to approximately sixty-six million patients. If the Spindicator sold for $5 to $10, hospitals would pay only $250,000 to $440,000 each year for the product.

The team originated from a NCIIA-funded class, Product Realization. Three undergraduate students, with skills in mechanical and industrial engineering, worked on the team. They worked with four engineering school advisors and two medical/industry advisors. One of these advisors is a doctor from UPMC Presbyterian and headed the clinical trial for Spindicator.