Venous thromboembolism is responsible for 60,000-100,000 deaths in the US yearly, but it is the most preventable death in hospital settings. From researching the clinical landscape, evaluating current product treatments, and looking at devices in similar industries, the VTEam addressed this issue and created a new solution, PneuComp.
PneuComp is a new age technology forged in the Deep Vein gorges of Thrombus, molded to defeat all foes in battle. Spawned from the belief that no one should suffer as Bob had, we vowed to take control of our fates and wage war on all who medically oppose us (in the realm of VTE). With the most blessed agents from all the lands, PneuComp would be robust, comfortable, and, most importantly, affordable to all those in need.
What it does
An Intermittent Pneumatic Compressor (IPC) Increases blood flow by applying pressure to the lower legs, most often while a patient is recovering from major surgery. After surgeries, a patient has a ~35% risk of forming venous thrombosis. Mechanical prophylaxis, which is safe and cost-effective, combats this. There are two options: an IPC or Graduated Compression Stocking (GCS). An improperly fitted GCS causes skin irritation, edema, ulceration, and even the "tourniquet effect," increasing the risk of venous thrombosis.
IPCs are much safer; however, less than half of patients adhere to guidelines because they must wear an uncomfortable, sweaty compressor for 18 hours daily. Additionally, they cost upwards of $500 for low-end models. Our initiative aims to maximize comfort, give the user autonomy with temperature controls, and have Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) so medical professionals can analyze the data, implement new positive feedback solutions to enhance user comfort and experience, and cut down on material prices.
How we built it
We created our revolutionary pneumatic compressor with CAD software, deriving from TinkerCAD and SolidWorks. After numerous reiterations to the structure, material, and shape to best fit user comfort, the VTEam utilized 3-D printed TPU (Thermoplastic polyurethane) filament for a sturdy, flexible model. PneuComp reveals the newest technology in IPCs with micropores for ventilation, spherical alternating pressure points, and intelligent sensing temperature controls to account for patient comfort. In addition, we researched and tested the best wicking and most comfortable fabrics, ending up with an ideal four layers of cotton and polypropylene. Our innovation includes a BLE mechanism to track wear time with easy-to-read data for medical professionals and at-home users.
Challenges we ran into
We needed more awareness of the clinical landscape. Venous thromboembolisms have many treatment options, so determining the best path based on efficiency, cost, function, and comfort needed thorough analysis. VTEam initially planned on improving the surgical catheter and mesh models with sharp ends. We realized our impact shouldn't require surgery, prompting an investigation into anticoagulants, thrombolytics, stockings, and compressive devices. Discovering cost-effective alternatives and improvements to existing materials challenged us to modify a unique design.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Despite a high market saturation for prophylactic measures against VTE and associated DVT issues, the VTEam found a unifying lack of consumer design, a hard-fought solution. VTEam did this by quickly learning about a common but not very well-known problem of blood clots, with a further specialization in those happening while in bed rest at a hospital. We are proud of having a CAD model within the first few hours and drafts of the 1st physical prototype within a day. This team has implemented modern technology and a redesign to 70-year-old technology that had long ago seen its heyday of innovation.
What we learned
The VTEam learned much about all steps of the innovation process. Initial ideation and customer discovery was a new topic requiring much more data about the feasibility and the issue than we all thought. Our background research into risk factors, management solutions, complications, and investigations into VTE was all part of what we learned for this project. Other project management topics, such as price estimates, mock-ups, and proper pitching, were learned about or improved upon. However, the essential ability we learned was how to critically assess our ideas over time, continually reimagine them, and change them with new information we learned. Every time we researched a new solution in VTE, we found a reason why it would not work or an already marketed product in its place, forcing us to turn back and reevaluate our choices. We learned to be more flexible in this process and to think critically every step of the way, an essential skill for every future project.
What's next for VTEam
Our first step will be to engage in discussions with clinicians for feedback. Presenting our technology to them will obtain valuable end-user input for further development. As we then develop our prototype, we will refine the methods used in our device to improve compliance and make the user data more available to relevant medical experts. Multiple iterations of prototypes will allow the VTEam to better understand the device's cost analysis and how we can improve the device without compromising effectiveness. A future addition could be a companion app that interfaces with our devices, giving patients a better understanding of their current situation. We hope no one else will suffer as Bob did.