E-Days preview: Surgical residents can learn to stop a bleed with Senior Design project

Physically Pulsating Organ Model Senior Design team
From left: Charlotte Mitchell, Amy Holcomb, Megan Miller, and Anthony Behle

It can take as little as 20 seconds to bleed out from a ruptured blood vessel. If a rupture occurs during surgery, how fast the surgeon responds, whether via clamping or suturing, could mean the difference between life and death.

In an effort to help surgeons develop quick, on-the-spot thinking in such a situation, a Senior Design team in the School of Biomedical Engineering is designing a physically pulsating organ model – a training tool that will allow surgical residents to practice their emergency response skills.

Simulating surgery

Sponsored by Applied Medical, the goal of the project is a simulation model that pulsates, imitating a heart beating 60 times a minute, with water flowing through it to represent blood. Using a student-designed app, the pump controlling the pulsating can be remotely started and stopped. With the click of a button, a “rupture” can be initiated, creating the unexpected event a surgical resident, for example, could practice responding to.

“We want to bring surgical techniques up to modern day through the creation of a model that will give live feedback if the patient is dying, or if a rupture were to occur,” said Charlotte Mitchell, biomedical engineering and chemical and biological engineering student. “Residents should be prepared for these situations.”

All in one piece

The team is using 3D printing technology and a thermoplastic polyurethane material called NinjaFlex to create the vessel model. Printing the model takes less time than other methods and allows the students to create full-sized vessels that don’t require assembly. No separate pieces means no seams – an important quality when water leaks could jeopardize the structure’s integrity.

Blood vessel model process
Biomedical engineering and chemical and biological engineering student Charlotte Mitchell applies a coating to the blood vessel model.

This production method also creates a more tactually realistic product.

“We were limited to using plastics we could print in the 3D printing lab, and we wanted the softest possible material that would be closest to a human body,” said Amy Holcomb, a biomedical and mechanical engineering student.

The blood vessel system will be a replaceable piece, designed to fit inside a housing that can be used with or without laparoscopic tools. Users would only have to replace the printed vessel network each time they want to run a simulation, providing a more functional and affordable solution.

High fidelity at low cost

Similar training tools on the market are either high quality but expensive, or more affordable but less realistic. The Senior Design team aimed for both cost effectiveness and usability. So far, the students have managed to get the pulsation working properly, and are working to implement the rupture mechanism. They’ll be presenting their progress on their physically pulsating organ model at the E-Days Senior Design Showcase, April 12, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. in the Lory Student Center and on the Plaza.