A research team from UC-San Diego has fashioned a 3D-printed device that could reduce or eliminate the need for invasive procedures aimed at evaluating humans’ gastro-intestinal tracts. Through the monitoring device, which is akin to an electrocardiogram for the digestive system, doctors will be able to assess individuals’ gut health and detect potential abnormalities by monitoring over a 24-hour period.
The device has the obvious benefit of cost effectiveness, as its potential use outside of the doctor’s office means it will be far more affordable than remaining in-clinic over a comparable monitoring period. Because of current costs, patients are often examined for periods far shorter than 24 hours, and the ability to wear this device for long periods at a lower cost means a greater chance of detecting any abnormalities of the GI tract.
The process by which the device works is known as electrogastrography, or EGG. Such a concept was probed for usefulness in the 90s, but technological limitations led researchers to abandon it, as they could not find a viable diagnostic use for it. But the researchers from UC-San Diego believe that the tools are now available to craft a functional version of the EGG, focusing especially on cutting down on non-important sounds coming from the body which could skew findings.
The technology works by scanning the stomach for certain electrical signals which are associated with gastric contractions. Three oscillations per minute is the wave cycle which indicates healthy function of the gastro-intestinal tract, so any reading of the EGG which strayed from this healthy rhythm would serve as an indicator of a greater problem requiring more acute medical attention.
Using a connected smartphone app which automatically logs users’ electronic diagnostics for the doctor’s examination purposes, researchers conducted an experiment to test the effectiveness of their largely 3D-printed device. The results were promising, showing relatively little variation when compared simultaneously with other proven methods of monitoring which are slightly more invasive.
Gastroenterologists have commented positively on the technology in the past, and assuming that the research team is able to further perfect the device to the point of near-flawless usability, it could prove a technology which is woven in the future of Health tech.
A gastroenterologist can quickly see where and when a part of the GI tract is showing abnormal rhythms and as a result make more accurate, faster and personalized diagnoses, said lead author of the research paper, Armen Gharibans. Until now, it was quite challenging to accurately measure the electrical patterns of stomach activity in a continuous manner, outside of a clinical setting.