New wireless device could aid breast cancer recovery

New wireless device could aid breast cancer recovery

A new wireless device can provide an early warning of the potential failure of breast reconstruction surgery, aiding the recovery of breast cancer patients.

The wireless ‘bio-patch’ was attached to patients for 48 hours following breast reconstruction surgery, and successfully performed continuous monitoring of the level of oxygen saturation in transferred tissue – a key indicator of whether there is a risk of reconstruction failure.

An international team funded by UK Research and Innovation’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and led by Imperial College London, developed the patch as part of the Smart Sensing for Surgery project.    

“Poor blood supply or failure of breast reconstruction surgery can have a major impact on a breast cancer patient’s recovery, prognosis and mental wellbeing,” explains project lead Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, Director of the Hamlyn Centre at Imperial College London.

“Clinical signs of failure often occur late and patients may be returned to the operating room on clinical suspicion. Our new bio-patch tackles this problem by providing objective data as an early warning system for medical staff, enabling earlier and simpler interventions, as well as giving patients increased peace of mind.”

According to Breast Cancer Care, over 55,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. 43% of women who have surgery for breast cancer undergo a mastectomy.

Breast reconstruction surgery following a mastectomy routinely includes transfer of the patient’s own tissue to help rebuild the breast. This procedure achieves high success rates but early detection of possible problems could help further reduce post-surgical complications and cut surgery failure rates.

Professor Lynn Gladden, EPSRC’s Executive Chair, says: “This Smart Sensing for Surgery project is an excellent example of how science and engineering can have direct impacts on people’s lives. Spotting post-surgery problems early can help clinicians treat patients quickly and improve outcomes. It is particularly heartening to hear about the application of this technology during Breast Cancer Awareness month.”

Harnessing a technique known as near-infrared spectroscopy, the new device safely captures and transmits data using sensors hermetically sealed inside fully biocompatible materials. The data is encrypted to ensure security and privacy.

Early trials have opened up the prospect of the bio-patch becoming available for widespread clinical use within two to three years. The project team is currently exploring the scope to secure commercial or National Institute for Health Research support for the next stage of development and commercialisation.

The device is now being adapted to help monitor conditions such as dementia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Further information

Find out more on the EPSRC website.