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U of Waterloo start-up’s monitoring system detects ‘silent’ complications after abdominal surgery

A University of Waterloo start-up, FluidAI, is developing a smart monitoring system to examine biological data and alert health-care providers to possible complications following abdominal surgery.

The current standard of care sees an average of eight percent of all abdominal surgeries developing serious post-operative complications. These complications are typically ‘silent,” presenting no symptoms until the issue becomes serious and life threatening. At that point, the complications can carry an average mortality rate of 12%.

“The best way to comprehend the problem is to think about the operative care journey for patients,” says FluidAI’s CEO and co-founder Youssef Helwa. “Patients come out of surgery, and unfortunately, a subset of these patients ends up developing some sort of complication. They start becoming sick with symptoms, and doctors must start playing the game of investigating why these patients are feeling sick.”

FluidAI’s smart monitoring system removes some of that guesswork by helping caregivers identify leaks, bleeds or potential infections much earlier than the current standard of care. Detecting these clinically silent issues before the onset of detectable symptoms allows the health care provider to intervene before the complication becomes critical. This reduces both mortality and the length of stay at the hospital in recovery.

The company’s solution includes a small device that attaches between commonly used peritoneal drains, allowing excess fluid to pass through it. The fluid interacts with a micro-sensor platform technology, which measures and records the physiological profile of the drainage, including pH and electrical conductivity. The real-time data is relayed to an accompanying tablet, where all measurements are displayed as trends for easy interpretation. The device provides a window to the abdomen, providing round-the-clock bedside monitoring of patients.

“Right now, the timeline between investigation of the root cause and treatment is a problem. If you can pick up on the complication from the point it manifests and intervene or change how you’re administering care to the patient, you could end up with drastically different results,” Hewla says.

He credits the University of Waterloo with preparing him to build FluidAI and embarking on the life of an entrepreneur. “My time [at Waterloo] was a valuable transformational experience for me. It’s not like I come from a family of entrepreneurs. Waterloo provided that strong entrepreneurial mindset and mentality.”

FluidAI is in the process of conducting clinical studies at several sites across North America, including the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, and the company has recently raised more than $7 million in funding. They received Health Canada approval in early 2022 and expect to have a global reach with their novel device.

“Very recently, we reached the point where our devices are functioning every minute of every day on patients somewhere in the world. The feedback has been incredible. We went into the clinical studies with certain expectations, and so far, it’s been a blessing where we are surpassing every one of our expectations.”

Source: India Education

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