IV fluid monitor designed in Halifax could improve patient safety

HALIFAX – A medical device developed in Halifax may soon change how operating rooms across the country are run.

Dr. Orlando Hung has been an anesthesiologist with Capital Health for 27 years, and during his time in the operating room, he has seen how intravenous (IV) bags often run empty without anyone noticing.

He describes IV bags as the vehicles that help deliver intravenous anesthetic drugs.

“We actually did an operational study in 1988. We found about 29.6 per cent…chance that the bag runs dry,” Hung said.

He said the reasons for empty IV bags are many.

“It’s not that we’re not vigilant, but because you’re paying attention to the patient. You watch the surgical procedure. You watch the monitor and you watch everything. You do the drug administration. The bag is hung above eye level,” he said. “You never monitor the patient by looking up.”

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He said the time it takes to replace an empty IV bag can also vary.

“Sometimes it may take a second for the anesthesiologist to change it. It can be five, 10, 15 minutes [or] it can be half an hour. You don’t know.”

If the bag runs empty, he said it is a risk to the patient in the operating room because they do not receive anesthetic until the empty bag is replaced.

“That means you might not have any anesthetic going into the patient. They might be aware of that,” he said.

“It will impact patient care if you don’t detect it promptly. There will be a time lag that the drug will be given from the time you inject to [reaching] the patient. That means during that time, the patient will have no drug in his or her system.”

Seeing the need for improvement, Hung started to develop and design a tool that would lower the risk to patients and increase the efficiency of anesthesiologists.

The final product is called Fluid IV Alert (FIVA), a battery-powered device that clips onto IV bags.

FIVA detects fluid levels through light refraction and there is a visual and audio cue when the bags run empty.

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“The FIVA is to remind the clinicians your IV bag is empty,” Hung said. “Change it now because your vehicle is gone so you must replace it.”

Halifax-based EnginuityMED helped develop FIVA. CEO Ben Garvey said the company was connected to Hung in June 2013.

“We took his inputs, ideas and identified a lot of features and needs that weren’t there in the initial prototype device and started modeling, developing prototypes to try and tackle and solve the problem,” he said.

Staff at EnginuityMED worked on the mechanical and electrical design of FIVA and created six to eight versions of it before developing the final product.

The time period from idea to final product was nine months, and FIVA is currently being used at the Halifax Infirmary and Victoria General hospital sites.

Garvey said the feedback from the patented device has been so successful the company is working on a second-generation product that will be tailored for needs in urology, pediatrics and interventional radiology.

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