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Technology aims to reduce ICU deaths

A new automated insulin delivery system has been developed by European researchers to reduce the number of deaths and complications arising from treating high glucose levels in intensive care units (ICUs).

Dr Martin Ellmerer, scientific coordinator of CLINICIP, the EU-funded project behind the research, told the European Commission’s online editorial service ICT Results: “What these studies did clearly indicate is that the establishment of normal glucose levels in critically ill patients is very difficult to achieve without some sort of automated system to help the nurses.”

“We first developed a decision-support system which met all the criteria outlined by the ICU staff, and later developed a fully automated system.”

The decision support system works by nurses entering information on glucose levels taken from a patient’s blood sample onto a touch screen user interface. An algorithm in the system calculates and administers the dose of insulin based on the data.

Dr Ellmerer told ICT Results that fully functioning prototypes of the decision-support system had been trialled successfully at different hospitals around Europe, with the project’s manufacturing partner, B. Braun Melsungen AG, prepared to go into commercial production.

A fully automated system whereby the machine takes its own blood sample from the patient, without the involvement of a nurse, is in development. This product is expected to be fully available commercially in 2011.

Insulin is used in ICUs to treat rapidly increasing blood glucose levels in critically ill patients. If untreated this situation can cause complications or even death in the patients. Overdosing the patient with insulin can, however, cause hypoglycaemia, or abnormally low blood sugar levels.

ICT Results