Stories about: Devices

Amblyopia detection: A long climb to market for the Pediatric Vision Scanner

David Hunter Pediatric Vision Scanner
(Photo: Bruce Hunter)

David Hunter, MD, PhD, ophthalmologist-in-chief at Boston Children’s Hospital, is also developer of StrabisPix and BabySee. The Pediatric Vision Scanner received FDA marketing clearance last month.

As a pediatric ophthalmologist, I do my best to assure that every young patient I examine will have a lifetime of perfect sight. The condition that I battle most commonly is amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” in which the eye is healthy but does not develop vision — simply because the brain doesn’t receive proper input when a child’s visual system is “learning” how to see.

When I can diagnose amblyopia early enough, I can treat it with an eye patch or eye drops to block the “good” eye, giving the eye with amblyopia time to catch up. But amblyopia does not fight fairly: about half of affected kids have no visible signs of the condition. As a result, amblyopia silently steals the sight of hundreds of thousands of children — many of whom will never get their vision back because treatment started too late.

It is this problem that inspired me to develop the Pediatric Vision Scanner (PVS).

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3D-printed models assist complex brain surgery for encephalocele

Encephalocele 3D printing

At five months’ gestation, Bentley Yoder was given little chance to live. A routine 20-week “gender reveal” ultrasound showed that a large portion of his brain was growing outside of his skull, a malformation known as an encephalocele. But he was moving and kicking and had a strong heartbeat, so his parents, Sierra and Dustin, carried on with the pregnancy.

Born through a normal vaginal delivery (the doctors felt that a C-section would interfere with Sierra’s grieving process), Bentley surprised everyone by thriving and meeting most of his baby milestones.

But the large protuberance on his head was holding him back. It steadily got larger, filling with cerebrospinal fluid. Bentley couldn’t hold his head up for more than a few seconds.

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Bringing voice technology to healthcare: Hacking with Amazon’s Alexa

voice technology healthcare
Kate Donovan, clinical advisor to IDHA, conducts a simulated inpatient demo of Alexa.

Earlier this spring, Boston Children’s Hospital’s Innovation and Digital Health Accelerator (IDHA) released KidsMD for Amazon’s Alexa, the voice technology system’s first healthcare “skill.” It offers simple health advice for parents inquiring about their child’s fever and medication doses at home. But fever is just the beginning. Where else in a patient’s journey could voice be leveraged?

In collaboration with Boston Children’s Hospital’s Simulator Program (SIMPeds), IDHA brought Alexa to a two-part mini-hackathon on May 25. Patients and their families, clinicians, developers and researchers were invited to watch and join demonstrations of voice technology across the hospital. In the breakout hack sessions that followed, participants brainstormed future applications for voice at Boston Children’s.

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Detecting shunt failure in hydrocephalus without imaging or surgery: ShuntCheck

shunts hydrocephalus
Antonio helped test a device that can tell whether a shunt is still working. (Photos: Katherine Cohen)

Antonio Venus-Reeve, 14, had his first shunt surgery for hydrocephalus when he was 2½ months old. Born at 25 weeks’ gestation, weighing less than two pounds, he had a serious brain bleed seven days later.

As Antonio’s head began to swell with excess fluid, neurologists at Boston Children’s Hospital told his mother, Joanne Venus-Williams, that Antonio probably would not be able to walk, talk or develop major motor skills. “Neurosurgery got involved and the team did daily spinal taps to draw out the fluid in his brain,” says Venus-Williams. “They were hoping he wouldn’t need a shunt, but we got to the point where we knew it was the way to go.”

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Why can’t a walker be more like an all-terrain vehicle?

Child innovator Sadie with Amazing Curb Climber
Photo: Patrick McCallum

Sadie McCallum’s own life led her to become an inventor. She’s 9, has cerebral palsy, for which she’s seen at Boston Children’s Hospital, and relies on a walker to get around. “It would be SO much easier if my walker was more like an all-terrain vehicle and could go over curbs or stairs,” she says.

This year, in third grade, Sadie took part in her school’s annual Invention Convention and designed and built the Amazing Curb Climber. She sketched the design, and her family helped her with the planning, drilling, sawing and assembly. The end product combined two of Sadie’s old walkers and six lawn mower wheels (three on either side) to create an all-terrain design, plus two smaller wheels in back. Her dad helped build a portable curb for testing and demo purposes.

The invention won first place for Best Use of a Wheel and second place for Kids’ Choice. Sadie went on to the regional Invention Convention, where she took the first place for the Special Needs Award as well as the Microsoft Technology Award.

Read Sadie’s post on our sister blog, Thriving.

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StrabisPIX: Assessing strabismus from patients’ smartphone photos

strabismus smartphone
(Lapina/Shutterstock)

New smartphone-based diagnostic tools are enabling consumers to take their temperatures, diagnose simple skin conditions and much more. As advanced smartphone imaging puts more and more capabilities in patients’ hands, it’s no surprise that clinicians and numerous digital health startups are leveraging them.

As a case in point, the Department of Ophthalmology and the Innovation & Digital Health Accelerator (IDHA) at Boston Children’s Hospital have co-developed a smartphone application for patients with strabismus, or misalignment of the eyes, to securely capture and transmit photos of their eyes to their providers.

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Medicine meets theater: Pediatrics training, parent practice, device innovation ‘on location’

medical simulation

Pediatric medicine just took a step for the better in Boston’s Longwood Medical Area with a new, expanded pediatric Simulation (SIM) Center — a dedicated space where doctors, nurses and other staff can rehearse tough medical situations or practice tricky or rare procedures in a clinical setting that looks and feels real.

But clinicians aren’t the only ones who will be using the new 4,000-square-foot facility, which incorporates real medical equipment, set design and special effects.

Families can get hands-on practice with medical equipment they’ll be using at home. Inventors and “hackers” can develop and test new devices or software platforms and see how they perform in a life-like clinical environment. Planned hacks, for example, will explore different medical and surgical applications for voice-activated and gesture-controlled devices.

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Reimagining connected health through home hubs

home health hubs

Through smart home hubs and the growing Internet of Things, people can now control lights, thermostats and other appliances and get information and entertainment with their always-connected digital devices. Consumers have widely adopted home automation products like Nest from Google and ecosystems like Apple’s HomeKit and Amazon’s Alexa.

But home hubs also have the potential to achieve the promise of connected health — access to health care services anywhere and anytime.

Home hubs can deliver enormous value as a means of health care delivery — not just helping casual consumers become familiar with their health and take preventive measures, but also helping manage complex care for patients with chronic illness and supporting timely decision making by clinical teams. Everybody involved with a person’s care can be plugged in, enabling coordination across providers and caregivers in a way that’s increasingly intuitive and meaningful.

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From NICU dad to citizen scientist: Creating a smart pulse oximeter

Morris Family
Jon and Sarah Morris with 7-year-old twins Drew and Emma

When Sarah and Jon Morris’ twins were born nine weeks early, they embarked on a journey largely dictated by their children’s medical needs. While son Drew was thriving, daughter Emma was severely compromised and was transferred to Boston Children’s Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). “We felt powerless,” remembers Jon. “Every time we thought we had made progress, we had a setback. It’s always two steps forward, one step back in the NICU. That backwards step always hit the hardest.”

After 296 days at Boston Children’s, Emma went home tethered to breathing and feeding tubes. The Morrises had a pulse oximeter at home to regularly test Emma’s blood oxygen level.

There were frustrating limitations to Emma’s oximeter:

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News Notes: Headlines in science and innovation

An occasional roundup of news items Vector finds noteworthy.

Zika’s surface in stunning detail; mosquito tactics

Zika virus
(Purdue University image/courtesy of Kuhn and Rossmann research groups)

We haven’t curbed the Zika epidemic yet. But cryo-electron microscopy — a newer, faster alternative to X-ray crystallography — at least reveals the structure of the virus, which has been linked to microcephaly (though not yet definitively). The anatomy of the virus’s projections gives clues to how the virus is able to attach to and infect cells, and could provide toeholds for developing antiviral treatments and vaccines. Read coverage in the Washington Post and see the full paper in Science.

Meanwhile, as The New York Times reports, scientists are coming together in an effort to control Zika by genetically manipulating the mosquito that spreads it, Aedes aegypti.

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