The US Army, through the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), has awarded Energid Technologies a contract to develop a robotic approach to airway management. After trauma or injury, airway management typically involves clearing a patient's airway and inserting a tube to maintain oxygen flow in preparation for further treatment. This process, endotracheal intubation, is critical as the loss of proper air circulation is fatal.
Energid will develop a handheld lightweight robotic system that can perform endotracheal intubation on the battlefield. Energid's approach uses a novel flexible tube manipulator that quickly and safely deploys inside a patient's airway. The mechanism integrates force feedback and video-tracking for real-time active motion compensation and control. It also provides needed feedback to the operator for correct intubation and active liquid clearance.
"The device we are developing works through unique technology we have developed for actuating flexible mechanisms," said Dr. Pablo Valdivia y Alvarado, the Principal Investigator for the project. "With Energid's technology, the device can be effective and lightweight."
Energid is applying its commercial Actin(TM) robot control and simulation toolkit and its Selectin(TM) machine vision toolkit to support control of the innovative hardware used in the device. Advanced control will protect injured patients from the current risks of airway management.
"This technology would be helpful to newly-trained first responders that are deployed with a unit because they don't have the help of others or years of experience to fall back on," said Ms. Nita Grimsley, the project's contracting officer's representative at TATRC. "The nuances of endotracheal intubation can be difficult to perform under pressure, therefore a 'tool' that can assist the provider in re-establishing an airway without injuring the vocal cords would be beneficial."