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A new way to monitor the spinal cord

At Stony Brook University, Thomas F. Floyd, MD, professor of anesthesiology, is developing a device to measure fluctuations in spinal cord blood flow and oxygenation. 

Designed to be used during spine, spinal cord, and aortic surgery, the device will help physicians detect the onset of spinal cord ischemia, a restriction of blood flow that can lead to paralysis or paraparesis. 

“Currently available technologies for the monitoring of the spinal cord during surgery are not capable of directly detecting spinal cord ischemia; nor can they provide real-time feedback and guidance for interventions to improve blood flow and oxygen delivery that could thereby resolve the ischemia,” says Floyd. 

The current methods for preventing SCI are largely based on electrophysiology, which makes them indirect, slow, nonspecific, and cumbersome. Instead, continuing the research he began with colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania, Floyd is working on a thin, flexible, disposable fiber optic probe that can directly monitor real-time changes in spinal cord blood flow. 

“We have developed a portable prototypical fiber optic device, based on Diffuse Correlation Spectroscopy (DCS) and Diffuse Optical Spectroscopy (DOS) principles, that permits rapid detection and continuous monitoring of changes in spinal cord blood flow and oxygenation,” says Floyd. “The thin fiber optic probe can be placed through a needle next to the spinal cord, just as we currently place epidural catheters today for the management of pain control during labor or after surgery.” 

This year Floyd was awarded a $50,000 investment through the SUNY Technology Accelerator Fund (TAF), which supports the development and commercialization of innovations by SUNY faculty and students. The device, which could aid in the management of aortic aneurysms, spinal cord trauma, and spine reconstructive surgery, has already undergone successful early testing in animals. 

In the coming year, using the investment from TAF and a grant from the Craig H. Nielsen Foundation, Floyd will work with MIDI, a Long Island-based original equipment manufacturer, to initiate the design of the second generation fiber optic probes that will hopefully be deployed for human testing in the next 1-2 years. 

Tags Tags: Stony Brook University , Technology Accelerator Fund , Health and Medicine

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