Studies have been carried out, using a new wireless device which can assess if breast cancer surgery is likely to fail in the early stages after treatment.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded the patient studies which were led by researchers at Imperial College London. They developed a wireless ‘bio-patch’ as part of the Smart Sensing for Surgery project. Effective remedial action following failed surgery could be made easier because of the findings made.
The bio-patch which incorporates extremely small electronics (1.8 x 1.1cm) was attached for 48 hours to a group of patients who had had breast reconstruction surgery. The researchers successfully performed continuous monitoring of oxygen saturation levels in transferred tissue which is a key pointer of what the risk of reconstruction failure is.
It is routine in breast reconstruction surgery following a mastectomy, for a patients’ own tissue to be transferred in to help rebuild the breast. Usually, the procedure has high success rates, but early detection of any potential issues could aid in reducing post-surgical complications as well as cutting the rates of surgery failure.
Professor Lynn Gladden, EPSRC’s executive chair, says: “This Smart Sensing for Surgery project is an excellent example of how science and engineering can have direct impacts on people’s lives. Spotting post-surgery problems early can help clinicians treat patients quickly and improve outcomes. It is particularly heartening to hear about the application of this technology during Breast Cancer Awareness month.”
The device harnesses a technique called near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). It sends captured (and encrypted to ensure security and privacy) data using sensors hermetically sealed inside fully biocompatible materials
Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, director of the Hamlyn Centre at Imperial College London, who has led the Smart Sensing for Surgery project, said: “Poor blood supply or failure of breast reconstruction surgery can have a major impact on a breast cancer patient’s recovery, prognosis and mental wellbeing. Clinical signs of failure often occur late and patients may be returned to the operating room on clinical suspicion. Our new bio-patch tackles this problem by providing objective data as an early warning system for medical staff, enabling earlier and simpler interventions, as well as giving patients increased peace of mind.”
The early trials have established the possibility of the device becoming available for clinical use within 2-3 years. The research team is presently investigating the extent to secure commercial or National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) support for the next stage of development and commercialisation.
Furthermore, the bio-patch is being adapted to help with monitoring conditions such as dementia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), with the technology receiving backing from the government.