Researchers optimise vein spotting

By Gregory Roumeliotis

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Heart Blood

Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a
small handheld device that makes finding veins easier and quicker,
saving time and money.

This means that bruises, burns and other physical conditions no longer pose an obstacle to locating veins and administering drugs and solutions.

When the system is successfully adapted for humans, data processing and electronics will be miniaturised in a prototype for field testing, and it is hoped its final size will be that of a fountain pen.

Peter Rogers, a professor in Georgia Tech​'s School of Medical Engineering, told​ he estimates his team is six months away from production.

"Once we get the prototype the miniaturisation will be straightforward and we hope each unit will cost less than $500 (€410) to make,"​ he said.

"Currently the device needs some improvements, there are some noise issues as well as some mechanical challenges which we are confident we know how to address."

Connell Reynolds, founder of Reynolds Medical, a medical device manufacturer in Georgia that is sponsoring the project, told​ they are waiting for the team to reach a prototype but have already seen commercial interest expressed.

The injectable drug market rose 16.3 per cent to an estimated $83 billion (€70.2 billion) in 2002 and is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 10 per cent between 2002 and 2008.

Failing to find a vein, however, reduces the efficacy of drug delivery and causes unnecessary suffering for patients.

Dehydration, heart disease and obesity are just some cases where locating veins is particularly difficult.

"A small device that can spot veins accurately would make great difference to us and would also be a great relief for the patients,"​ Caroline Carew, a nurse at the Chatfield Medical Centre in London, said to​.

"We have difficulties finding veins with about 20 per cent of our patients. If we cannot find a vein to inject we have to send them to a hospital."

The patent-pending device consists of a reusable unit, which contains the electronics and signal processing components, and a disposable coupler box which holds a reflector and needle guide.

It works through the use of the Doppler effect, a phenomenon where the frequency of acoustical waves that interact with a moving object alters depending on the object's distance.

In the case of veins, the moving object is the blood, so by using the Doppler ultrasound and looking at the difference in frequency between the transmitted and reflected waves a three-dimensional picture of blood vessels can be obtained.

By moving the vein finder along the patient's arm or leg, one can determine the direction of blood flow to distinguish arteries from veins.

Once a vein is detected, an alarm is triggered and the medic inserts the needle.

It will be faster and more reliable than existing devices that try to locate veins with lights or heat strips.

The reasearchers hope their product will mean patients no longer have to feel the needle in vein.

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