Vascular Viewer™

A team from the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Materials and Manufac-turing Directorate (AFRL/ML) has de-veloped a patent-protected viewing device that reveals blood vessels in the body under a broad range of light-ing conditions. The innovative imag-ing technique originally combined image intensifier tubes and near-infra-red light sources to highlight and view veins and arteries. Further technol-ogy enhancements have replaced the original binocular tubes with a monoc-ular tube (scope). Medical personnel can use the Air Force invention to ac-cess blood vessels more quickly and accurately, even in extreme con-ditions such as on the battlefield or during trauma care. Through technology transfer, the AFRL/ML invention now is available as a commercial product—the Vas-cular ViewerTM—with impressive potential for saving lives, mini-mizing patient discomfort, and reducing health care costs. The Air Force awarded an ex-clusive license to a spinoff com-pany, InfraRed Imaging Systems (IRIS) of Columbus, Ohio, to develop and market the technology. Two IRIS-developed viewers currently are being tested by U.S. military medic units in Afghanistan and Iraq. Present-day combat often involves massive body trauma, making immediate admin-istration of life-saving fluids critical. Recent events in post-Katrina areas of the Gulf Coast also emphasize the importance of hydrating patients who might have difficult-to-access blood vessels, such as the elderly and small children. Other clinical trials of the imaging technology are underway at several U.S. hospitals. Civilian health care workers are enthusiastic about the technology’s potential for reducing technician time and patient pain, both in emergency situations and during standard venipuncture or catheteriza-tion procedures. Venipuncture, used to obtain blood samples, is the most common invasive medical procedure in the United States, with more than 1 billion occurring annually. On aver-age, it takes two or three attempts to successfully insert a peripheral intra-venous catheter. This type of vascular access is affected by a variety of pa-tient- and technician-related factors. Changing profiles of the U.S. popula-tion suggest that patient groups with conditions complicating vascular ac-cess are increasing in numbers—for example, the elderly; those with chron-ic disorders such as diabetes, cancer, and obesity; or those with darker pig-mented skin. The market share for the Vascular ViewerTM is projected to be millions of dollars annually. The health benefits to American soldiers and civilians will be incalculable.
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