Measuring blood flow is important during a variety of surgical procedures, as well as in intensive care settings. Typically, this is performed intermittently, so there’s not a lot of temporal detail in the readings. Now, a team of researchers at Flinders University in Australia has developed a proof-of-concept prototype vascular catheter that can detect tiny changes in blood flow around itself.

Because the sensor and the catheter it is attached to are so narrow, it has the potential to be used in neonatal intensive care units, as preemies often suffer from falls in blood pressure and impaired delivery of oxygen to the organs. Surgeries on infants and critically ill patients may also be improved by providing important information on blood flow to physicians.

The device works in a novel way. An LED that produces a yellow light is used to heat passing blood near the distal tip of the catheter. A fiber Bragg grating sensor is then used to detect these slight changes in temperature. The faster the slightly warmed blood is detected by the sensor, the faster it is moving through the vessel. Because the process takes microseconds, the results are nearly instantaneous.

Study in Journal of Biophotonics: Optical flow sensor for continuous invasive measurement of blood flow velocity

Via: Flinders University

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