Washington, June 1 : ICU patients, who usually remain confined in the four walls of the special unit, can now move around the hospital corridors, thanks to a new device designed by students at Johns Hopkins.
This device, called the ICU MOVER Aid, will enable critically ill intensive care unit patients to leave their beds and walk while they remain tethered to essential life-support equipment. The discovery will also help doctors to know if carefully supervised rehabilitation, as against continuous sedation and bed rest in ICU, can help in the recovery of patients or not.
While ICU patients require to be constantly connected to an artificial breathing machine, heart monitors and intravenous lines with essential medications, some clinicians still believe that if such patients get out of bed and walk, it could do away with muscle weakness, bedsores and depression developed due to heavy sedation and constant bed confinement.
However, moving around such patients requires at least four staff members, because of the constant equipment accompanying them. And in order to reduce this staffing demand and improve this new ICU rehabilitation program, students at Johns Hopkins Hospital have produced the ICU MOVER Aid.
The device has two components: a novel mobility aid that combines the rehabilitative features of a walker and the safety features of a wheelchair, and a separate wheeled tower to which important life-support equipment can be attached.
"The finished product is truly outstanding. The most recent version of the MOVER is far beyond a rough prototype. The students exceeded everyone's expectations in designing a device that we could routinely use in the Medical ICU," said physician Dale Needham, an assistant professor in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
In order to improve the new Medical ICU rehabilitation program at Johns Hopkins, Needham had challenged the students to produce a device that would meet three key criteria. First, it had to provide physical support for the patient during walking. Second, it had to safely house all necessary monitoring and therapeutic equipment for critically ill patients. Finally, it needed a safety backup system for patients who must immediately sit down because of fatigue or a sudden change in their medical condition.
"We ended up building three versions. First, we used PVC pipes to work on the basic design. Then, we made an aluminum version. We made the final prototype mostly of steel. All through the process we got feedback from the hospital's ICU staff, who told us what we needed to change to make it better suit patients' needs. All of the staff involved in the ICU rehabilitation program were very happy with the final version," said Joshua Lerman, a senior biomedical engineering student who served as team leader.
The resultant final version features a walker type framework, similar to devices that some frail or elderly people use to get around. The device also has, a fabric seat attached to the frame immediately behind the patient so that a tired patient can sit down. And it can also "catch" a patient who abruptly collapses because of a medical problem.
"We made the seat out of ballistic nylon because we didn't want it to rip. It's durable, and it's easy to clean for infection-control purposes," said Lerman, 22, from Delray Beach, Fla.
The device also has a separate component, a tower designed to accommodate two oxygen tanks and three medical devices: a cardiac monitor, intravenous infusion pumps to provide medications, and a ventilator to support breathing.