When a patient can't breathe through their mouth or nose, often the only way of getting air to their lungs is to perform a tracheotomy. This involves making an incision in the trachea, and inserting a breathing tube through it. Now, scientists are creating a device to streamline the process.
Developed by researchers at Spain's Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, the cylindrical-bodied tool has a sheathed breathing tube running through it, at the front of which is a spring-loaded cannula and the lens of a fiber optic camera. That sharp-ended combo is lined up with the patient's trachea and held in place using a curved brace that is pressed against their neck and collar bone.
The cannula is then inserted by the user, who first adjusts the preload of the spring based on the particular situation. Once it's within the patient's airway, the tube can be guided into place by viewing real-time video from the camera, on a smartphone-like device mounted on top.
The gadget is intended for use both in planned tracheotomies taking place in operating rooms, and in emergency tracheotomies carried out on location – most of us are probably more familiar with the latter, from movies and TV shows. Besides their being carried along by ambulance crews, the devices could also be installed in public spaces for emergency use, like defibrillators already are.