Nasogastric Tube: Being At The Right Place At The Right Time

Market Opportunity

When a patient is unable to feed themselves the challenges of delivering effective, respectful care are significantly increased for healthcare professionals. Whether this condition arises from stroke, cerebral trauma, or old age the necessity of providing nutrition directly into the gastrointestinal tract is met through the use of nasogastric tubes.

Nasogastric tubes are used to deliver nutrients and medications directly into the gastrointestinal tract and in the U.S. alone, there are some 1.2 million such tubes placed in patients every year. 

When it comes to the placement of the tube, ensuring the tube is in the right place is literally a matter of life or death. Should the tube be wrongfully inserted, the results could be fatal. Currently, the procedure is performed without any real time confirmation and the feedback comes later with an X-ray, which can be easily misinterpreted and exposes patients to harmful radiation. 


The Technology

A team from the NUS Department of Surgery has partnered with the Singapore University of Technology and Design to develop a device that provides real-time localisation feedback on the placement of a nasogastric tube.

Applications and Advantages

The device works by having a small magnet, embedded into the tip of the nasogastric tube. An array of magnetic sensors, located outside the patient’s body, can detect this magnetic field and from this infer the positioning of the tube at the larynx region. The device works without any power supply or wired connection. As the tube traverses down the alimentary canal, the sensors continue to track and measure the location of the feeding tube. Data is collected and processed using computational algorithms. Any incorrect placement can be detected and corrected immediately. The benefits are obvious, healthcare professionals can verify accurate positioning to increase patient safety without time consuming x-rays.

With a rapidly ageing society, the global market for feeding tubes is increasing. According to Global Data, an estimated 150 million units of tubes is projected by 2021. This device is easy to use, compact and intuitive, and does not require any special training for healthcare personnel. Besides being used for tracking nasogastric feeding tubes, this technology can be applied in other medical applications, to provide real-time localisation of devices within the body. 

The team has tested successfully the device on cadaveric bodies and is looking for commercial partners to develop the technology and bring it to market. 

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