Medical equipment evolves at a pace with which the NHS cannot keep pace. Addenbrooke's has a reputation of being among the leaders in innovation and, as can be seen from the examples below, ACT's charitable support helps ensure that more patients can benefit from the latest technological ideas.
Here are a few examples of recently funded projects:
3D clinical care
3D printing is rapidly becoming an integral component of clinical care, playing an important role in research, patient investigation, education and management as well as student and staff teaching.
The ability to produce anatomically correct models in a cost-effective way is revolutionising the way surgeons approach complex reconstructive surgery, for example, allowing them to perform procedures previously deemed impossible.
Staff at Addenbrooke’s did not have direct access to a 3D printer and models had to be obtained from external sources, with inevitable delay.
The application: Following an approach from ACT, The Alborada Trust generously funded an on-site printer and this application to the Innovation Fund was for associated staffing, for two years.
Thanks to these grants, clinicians can now be actively involved in the 3D design phase, speeding up the production process and ensuring the resulting model fully meets each individual patient’s requirements.
It is anticipated that around 40-60 models per month will be printed initially, and that this number will increase significantly as the various specialist services in the hospital discover the clinical benefits of the technology.
Comment from the committee: “This service is innovative and will be beneficial to patients by improving surgery planning and reducing operating time.”
Grants applicant: Dr Karen Eley
Amount awarded: £40,000 from ACT’s Innovation Fund
Paediatric sleep equipment
Many children have disturbed sleep because of conditions such as obstructive sleep apnoea caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids, or due to muscular issues, behavioural problems or obesity. For many of these cases some simple tests can be done in an outpatient clinic or in the community such as measuring oxygen and heart rate. Children with more complicated problems, however, require a more detailed assessment of their sleep.
The Addenbrooke’s paediatric sleep service was set up in 2008, thanks to charitable donations, to diagnose the root of these problems which can cause permanent health and behavioural problems.
Specially designed sleep trolleys help staff gather the information needed to analyse children’s sleep. Each trolley includes a laptop, a video camera and microphone to record snoring and various on-body sensors which enable monitoring of airflow, pressure in the nose, neurological activity, thoracic or abdominal effort and leg movement.
The application: Two new sleep trolleys were requested, to improve the service offered to children. Dr Rob Ross Russell, who champions the sleep service at Addenbrooke’s, said: “The new equipment uses wireless technology which makes it easier to put on and more comfortable to wear so children can tolerate the study more easily. They will be much more relaxed and their sleep will benefit as a result.”
Comment from the committee: "This service is clearly appreciated by parents deeply concerned about their children's sleeping difficulties."
Grant applicant: Dr Rob Ross Russell
Amount awarded: £24,000, with thanks to the generosity of GC Gibson Charitable Trust
Screening for congenital cataracts
Background: Babies are screened for cataracts within three days of birth and at the six week GP check. Severe cataracts require surgical removal by eight weeks of age; if delayed the child will never have good sight in the affected eye. Cataracts affecting both eyes will cause blindness if missed.
The current screening test uses the ‘red reflex’, the reddish reflection of light from the back of the eye, but the technique is not easy and research indicates that 50% of cataracts are missed. This results in delays in diagnosis and a poorer visual outcome.
The application: Dr Louise Allen has proposed an alternative technique using an infra-red light source and camera which improves reflectivity and should improve the detection of congenital cataracts. Her team has developed a prototype device, comprising an infra-red diode and digital camera, and a grant was requested to fund its development, which would be a precursor to a full clinical trial.
Comment from the committee: “If successful, this project could reduce lifelong loss of vision and consequential impact on social support and educational requirements.”
Grants applicants: Louise Allen and Ian
Amount awarded: £25,260 from ACT’s Innovation Fund
3D motion capture
Background:Ex-service personnel with prosthetic limbs can now receive improved follow-up care and support thanks to a motion capture laboratory at Addenbrooke’s
funded by the Ministry of Defence. Through reflective markers placed on patients’ skin and monitored through four 3D motion capture cameras, the new gait analysis service allows staff to assess whether the force involved in walking, for example, is appropriate or potentially causing harm.
The application: The clinical engineering team asked ACT to fund an additional six cameras so this new service can be extended to benefit other patients with gait difficulties including children with cerebral palsy, patients with traumatic brain injury or those suffering from a stroke.
Comment from the committee: “There are no similar facilities for NHS patients in the East of England and the benefit of this service will be considerable, including fewer emergency referrals, fewer equipment modifications and a reduced need for medical and surgical interventions.”
Grant applicant: Dr Thomas Stone
Amount awarded: £18,822 from ACT’s unrestricted funds
Portable ultrasound machine for thoracic procedures
Background:In 2008, the National Patient Safety Agency highlighted the excess deaths associated with the unguided insertion of chest drains and recommended that they should only be inserted under ultrasound guidance. The British Thoracic Society has subsequently issued guidelines extending this recommendation to include pleural aspiration, a procedure that involves a small needle or tube being inserted in the space between the lung and chest wall to remove fluid that has built up around the lung.
The application: The respiratory team asked ACT for funds to purchase a portable ultrasound machine so scans can be performed by the bedside. This will make it easier to identify patients needing this procedure, and avoid patients having to unnecessarily visit other departments for scans. It is hoped that the new equipment
will result in patients receiving treatment faster.
Comment from the committee: “We are supportive of this application which will improve the patient experience and streamline services.”
Grant applicant: Dr Pasupathy Sivasothy
Amount awarded: £24,000 from ACT’s unrestricted funds and £4,000 from the pleural development fund