Using technology to help paramedics save lives

Stavanger-based Excitus are developing a potentially life-saving tool for clearing the respiratory system of cardiac arrest victims. A science partnership with University of Stavanger could provide the final piece of the puzzle.

Per Reidar Ørke and Øyvind Tjølsen of Excitus, showing their prototype life-saving tool. Per Reidar Ørke and Øyvind Tjølsen of Excitus, showing their prototype life-saving tool.

On Friday April 21, Excitus presented the prototype at a seminar hosted by Norway Pumps & Pipes, the platform for technology transfer from petroleum engineering to medicine and other areas.

When someone’s heart stops, every second counts. In many cases, vomit clogs up the victim’s airways, making the situation even more acute.

That is why paramedics are equipped with suction devices, designed to remove liquids from the patient’s mouth and throat and as such improve the effectiveness of CPR.

Better tool

These devices are, however, far from optimal. According to Per Reidar Ørke of Excitus, the suction machine used in Norwegian ambulances is clunky to operate. Also, the pump takes time to build up vacuum before you can start using it, and afterwards someone has to spend about 90 minutes cleaning the equipment.

– That is why it is among the least favourite devices used by paramedics. Sometimes it is not used, and sometimes the first car to arrive at the scene is not even equipped with it.

The solution, then, seems clear: Provide health personnel with a better tool. Based on feedback from paramedics themselves, Excitus has developed a 3D-printed prototype based on R&D that has so far resulted in seven patent applications.

Field suction unit

Named the Excitus field suction unit, this electric drill-like device is made to satisfy the following criteria:

  • One-hand operation
  • Ready immediately (no pressure build-up)
  • Precise vacuum control
  • Single use, disposable pump and canister
  • Battery operated
  • No more expensive than today’s equipment

One hurdle left

The development team has solved many of these problems along the way, but one major hurdle remains: The functional risk of storing liquids inside a pumping device, which will be moved around and held in all sorts of angles.

How can you make sure that vomit does not run back out of the pump, or ends up in the machinery of the pump itself?

– We have identified two main paths: Mechanical and Chemical absorption. Mechanical solution could be traps, filters, or valves. Examples of chemical absorption include crystals, polymers or geo-mechanical solutions that could turn the liquid into a solid state when it enters the canister, says Ørke.

Science solution? 

– In short, we need to find a way to demobilise liquids in a chamber. We are hoping scientists at University of Stavanger could help us find that solution, he says.

The first contact has been made, and a brainstorming between the Excitus development team and UiS researchers will be scheduled as soon as possible. 

Text and photo: Leiv Gunnar Lie