Project Title: Nasogastric Tube Placement Verification System

Xeridiem logoTeam 15024 Members:
Christopher Gallo, biomedical engineering
Summer Garland, biomedical engineering
Nathaniel Husband, biomedical engineering
Gary Tyree, biomedical engineering
Hang Van, systems engineering
Andrew Werchan, electrical and computer engineering

Sponsor: Xeridiem

Students create cost-effective, easy-to-use medical device

Andrew Werchan shows the Nasogastric Tube Placement Verification System sensor tip and digital readout monitor showing correct insertionHospital patients recovering from illness or surgery who cannot feed themselves rely on nasogastric, or feeding, tubes. Traditionally, inserting a feeding tube has been a lot like flying blind. The tube can end up in the lungs instead of the stomach, sometimes resulting in serious injury – or death.

Hospitals can verify correct tube placement via a chest X-ray or a stomach pH test, but these test are costly.

Team 15024 has come to the rescue with a working prototype of a cost-effective, easy-to-use device that gives instant feedback on placement.

A sensor, responsive to an open circuit that is closed by stomach acid ions, threads inside the feeding tube and is connected to a digital readout display box.

When the circuit closes, the digital display box chirps and shows the message, “Placement good! Tube safe to use.” When the tube is threaded into the lungs, the circuit stays open. No chirping display box, nothing but silence. The readout says, “Warning! Not safe to use!”

Getting to the finish line wasn’t easy for the team, but their perseverance paid off.

Christopher Gallo said team members came up empty in the hunt for inexpensive – $10 to $20 – sensors, so they added sensor fabrication to their resumes.

In fact, developing the successful prototype took 36 tries, but the team wasn’t fazed.

“That’s research!” said Summer Garland.

The team’s solution to a tough patient care problem earned two first-prize awards at UA Engineering’s 2016 Design Day – $1,000 for Best Presentation and $1,000 for Innovation in Engineering. The awards were funded by Rincon Research Corp. and Ventana Medical Systems, respectively.

The team was also invited to present their work at the 2016 Capstone Design Conference in Columbus, Ohio, in early June, joining engineering capstone teams from across the nation.

The project has led to three provisional patent applications, and Tucson-based sponsor Xeridiem, a contract medical device manager, may file for full patent protection. The company also plans to bring the project back during the 2016-2017 Engineering Design Program for further refinements.

As for members of Team 15024, their plans include finishing UA undergraduate work, starting graduate school and medical school, and beginning jobs as engineers.