Jeff Fitlow/Rice University
Rice University's laryngoscope

A Wireless Video Laryngoscope Looks into the Airways

April 14, 2022
Rice engineering students develop a device to make intubation more intuitive.

A team of undergraduate bioengineering students from Rice University have designed an airway management device that meets the custom specifications provided by a clinician.

The Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen at Rice was approached by Dr. Kenneth Hiller, an anesthesiologist in private practice, for a solution that could provide easier access to image the throat and larynx, and help place a breathing tube into the trachea.

Hiller, who holds a patent on the design, brought with him a prototype built out of popsicle sticks and a metal tube. He had distinct design features in mind, including wireless video and a better blade profile. In addition, the laryngoscope needed to cost under $500.

“Current state-of-the-art devices have limitations,” Hiller said. “Placing an endotracheal tube can be challenging in a significant number of patients’ airways. For years, I’ve mulled over what I’d like in a device that can simplify the process and improve patient safety.”

Doctors use a laryngoscope to look in your larynx and other nearby parts of your throat for the causes of symptoms in the throat or voice box. The procedure is called a laryngoscopy.

The engineering students modeled a handheld, 3D-printed laryngoscope that is fitted with a straight blade (as opposed to a curved blade) to ensure direct line of sight. The device features an ergonomic handle and a switch for adjusting light from an LED near the wireless camera. They were also able to stay within the cost constraints of the project.

The students pointed out that video-enabled laryngoscopes typically require wiring to an external monitor. The off-the-shelf camera selected for their laryngoscope has a wireless range of about 33 meters. “Having the video accessible on a tablet means a doctor in another room can watch and give feedback about technique to the airway manager performing the actual procedure,” said Victoria Kong.

Kong and her teammates, Reed Corum, Rebecca Franklin and David Ikejiani, anticipate future refinements to include stainless steel construction for durability.

They will be presenting the device at the George R. Brown School of Engineering’s annual Engineering Design Showcase, taking place at Rice on April 21.

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