Inspired students make intubation more intuitive

Rice engineering team’s wireless video laryngoscope would aid airway managers

Laryngoscope

HOUSTON – (April 13, 2022) – Rice University bioengineering students are making a critical procedure easier for airway managers and safer for patients with a simplified, high-tech intubation device. 

The Gateway to Airway team at Rice, working with an anesthesiologist, has developed a sleek laryngoscope that simplifies intubating patients for scheduled or emergent procedures. 

The handheld, 3D-printed device contains a miniature wireless camera. Clinicians can use a switch on the comfortable handle to adjust light from an LED near the camera, which feeds high-resolution video to one or multiple monitors.

The team -- seniors Reed Corum, Rebecca Franklin, David Ikejiani and Victoria Kong -- will present the device at the George R. Brown School of Engineering’s annual Engineering Design Showcase on Thursday, April 21, at 4:30 p.m. The competitive event, open to the public, will be held this year at the Robert L. Waltrip Training Center, the inflatable facility on the west side of campus.

Bioengineering senior Reed Corum demonstrates his team’s laryngoscope on a manikin at Rice University’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)
Bioengineering senior Reed Corum demonstrates his team’s laryngoscope on a manikin at Rice University’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

The Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen was approached by Dr. Kenneth Hiller, an anesthesiologist in private practice, about collaborating on a laryngoscope that would allow easier access to image the throat and larynx and help place a breathing tube into the trachea.

Hiller, who has a patent on the design, recognized early on that engineering it into a true product would require specialized knowledge. 

“Current state-of-the-art devices have limitations,” Hiller said. “Placing an endotracheal tube can be challenging in a significant number of patients’ airways. For years, I’ve mulled over what I’d like in a device that can simplify the process and improve patient safety.”

“He came to us with something built out of popsicle sticks and a metal tube and said, ‘This is what I’m working towards but I don’t know how to build it myself,’” Franklin recalled.

“He wanted a video laryngoscope that not only had wireless video but also had a better blade profile,” Kong said. “There are two main types of laryngoscopes: with straight blades and with curved blades, and all of the video laryngoscopes on the market are in the curved blade format. While that’s great for compressing the tongue to get it out of the way, it has a very high displacement volume. It takes up a lot of room in the mouth. 

The laryngoscope built by Rice University students aided by a Houston anesthesiologist allows clinicians to track the progress of an intubation through a wireless device like a tablet, seen in the background.
The laryngoscope built by Rice University students aided by a Houston anesthesiologist allows clinicians to track the progress of an intubation through a wireless device like a tablet, seen in the background. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

“That makes it very difficult for the physician to insert the endotracheal tube to give the patient air,” she said. “The straight blade gives you a more direct line of sight. We wanted to combine the stabilization afforded by curved blades and a straight-blade profile, and we did that by tapering our blade.”

Hiller’s request was for a device that would cost under $500. “That’s within the constraints of our project and overall design, but it’s looking like we can easily get it below $200,” Corum said. The vacuum-formed, disposable sleeves that cover the blade can be made quickly for pennies, he said.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re developing this so late in the COVID pandemic, because any procedure that requires intubation requires a laryngoscope as well,” Ikejiani added. 

“I wasn't really aware of the impact this could have in the context of COVID-19,” Kong said. “But as we got into it, I realized this is an important tool to help airway managers minimize contact with potentially contagious aerosolized particles. And the wireless video capability of our device further creates distance for the safety of the health care provider.”

Rice University bioengineering students -- from left, Reed Corum, Rebecca Franklin, Victoria Kong and David Ikejiani -- have developed a simplified, wireless video laryngoscope to help clinicians intubate patients before procedures or in an emergency.
Rice University bioengineering students -- from left, Reed Corum, Rebecca Franklin, Victoria Kong and David Ikejiani -- have developed a simplified, wireless video laryngoscope to help clinicians intubate patients before procedures or in an emergency. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

Kong noted all of the video-enabled laryngoscopes on the market require wiring to an external monitor, often a small one on the handle of the device itself. “That limits the amount of space and number of people who can be working on the same patient,” she said.

“Having the screen attached makes the scope more delicate and harder to transport from room to room,” Franklin said. “Having the video accessible on a tablet means a doctor in another room can watch and give feedback about technique to the airway manager performing the actual procedure.”

She noted the off-the-shelf camera’s wireless range is about 33 meters. 

The students said they anticipate future refinements to include stainless steel construction for durability. 

They also see uses for the device beyond the clinic. “EMTs use their scopes in the field, and we can see expanding to people, for example, in the military who require remote oversight where users may not have expertise gained from years of experience,” Kong said.

“This has been a distinct privilege for me to collaborate with such a prestigious institution and such talented, motivated students,” said Hiller. “I would welcome opportunities to work with Rice on future ventures.” 

Images for download

Rice University engineering students develop a simplified, wireless video laryngoscope to help clinicians intubate patients before procedures or in an emergency. They will demonstrate the device at the university’s Engineering Design Showcase on April 21. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

https://news-network.rice.edu/news/files/2022/04/0418_AIRWAY-1-WEB.jpg

Rice University engineering students develop a simplified, wireless video laryngoscope to help clinicians intubate patients before procedures or in an emergency. They will demonstrate the device at the university’s Engineering Design Showcase on April 21. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Bioengineering senior Reed Corum demonstrates his team’s laryngoscope on a manikin at Rice University’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University) 

https://news-network.rice.edu/news/files/2022/04/0418_AIRWAY-2-WEB.jpg

Bioengineering senior Reed Corum demonstrates his team’s laryngoscope on a manikin at Rice University’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

The laryngoscope built by Rice University students aided by a Houston anesthesiologist allows clinicians to track the progress of an intubation through a wireless device like a tablet, seen in the background. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

https://news-network.rice.edu/news/files/2022/04/0418_AIRWAY-3-WEB.jpg

The laryngoscope built by Rice University students aided by a Houston anesthesiologist allows clinicians to track the progress of an intubation through a wireless device like a tablet, seen in the background. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

From left, Rice University senior bioengineering students David Ikejiani, Victoria Kong and Rebecca Franklin work on the camera mount for their wireless laryngoscope. The device, created as their required capstone project, will simplify the process of intubating patients. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

https://news-network.rice.edu/news/files/2022/04/0418_AIRWAY-4-WEB.jpg

From left, Rice University senior bioengineering students David Ikejiani, Victoria Kong and Rebecca Franklin work on the camera mount for their wireless laryngoscope. The device, created as their required capstone project, will simplify the process of intubating patients. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Rice University bioengineering students -- from left, Reed Corum, Rebecca Franklin, Victoria Kong and David Ikejiani -- have developed a simplified, wireless video laryngoscope to help clinicians intubate patients before procedures or in an emergency. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

https://news-network.rice.edu/news/files/2022/04/0418_AIRWAY-5-WEB.jpg

Rice University bioengineering students -- from left, Reed Corum, Rebecca Franklin, Victoria Kong and David Ikejiani -- have developed a simplified, wireless video laryngoscope to help clinicians intubate patients before procedures or in an emergency. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Video

Still from Airway video

https://youtu.be/eqsMLG99Azg

Video produced by Brandon Martin/Rice University

Related links

Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen: http://oedk.rice.edu

Department of Bioengineering: https://bioengineering.rice.edu

George R. Brown School of Engineering: https://engineering.rice.edu

Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews.

About Rice

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 4,052 undergraduates and 3,484 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is just under 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for lots of race/class interaction and No. 1 for quality of life by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

 

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