Last Vital Sign

  •   Medical Innovation: First tool for last vital sign
    A new Israeli medical device to measure urine volume digitally could save lives, while saving healthcare systems a lot of money.
    A basic measurement of urine volume during an operation or over the course of treatment in an intensive care unit (ICU) can tell a doctor if a patient is suffering from an acute kidney injury. About 30 percent of all patients in an ICU and 5% of all hospital patients suffer some form of kidney injury resulting from low blood volume, urinary tract blockage, sepsis or damage from surgery or accident. If not detected quickly, this could have severe consequences such as the need for dialysis.
    Robert Bash, the CEO of FlowSense, represents a new biomedical device company that has developed URINFO 2000, a real-time online monitoring device for use in the operating room and the ICU.
    Despite the seriousness of the problem, says Bash, urine output is still measured rather primitively and manually in a collection bag or container. This method leaves room open for subjective and human errors, especially during shift changes.

    “If a nurse is holding onto the bag and pressing it slightly this can change the volume reading,” says Bash, calling his company’s invention “the first tool to measure the last vital sign.”

    Consider that a normal flow rate of urine is anywhere from 30 to 400 cc per hour. Anything significantly more or less than that number should alert the medical staff that a kidney injury may have been sustained. Whether it stems from a heart operation or a motorcycle accident, says Bash, a kidney injury must be dealt with swiftly.

    Already saving lives in Israeli hospitals

    With its device already in use at Israeli medical centers such as Soroka in Beersheva, Shaare Zedek in Jerusalem and Rambam in Haifa, FlowSense is currently in sales channels to market the device to European and American hospitals.

    The company, founded by the Trendlines Group of Israeli business incubators, quickly passed through regulatory processes in both the United States and Europe. It is publicly traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE).

    The Trendlines Group, based in the Misgav Technology Park in Misgav, is a seed stage investment house focusing on life sciences, clean-tech and agritech.

    While many medical devices at Trendlines are transferred from other high-tech markets – digital imaging from the defense and space industries, for instance – this particular technology has a different blue-and-white twist: “It comes from an Israeli who specialized in low flow metering for irrigation,” says Bash. “Someone heard about the idea and thought that it could work to solve a problem in urine measurement.”

    That’s how FlowSense began in 2009.

    Cutting down on complications

    FlowSense isn’t the first company to attempt a new way to tackle the basic problem of monitoring urine output, but it is the first to succeed, says Bash, who notes the problem isn’t as simple as it looks.

    With the help of optical sensors and disposable features, the data can be collected and accessed online by clinicians at any time -- not just every hour or when the nursing staff makes its rounds.

    URINFO 2000’s two components include an electro-optical reader and display with memory functions and alarms; and a disposable, patent-pending urine collection and measurement unit. It can be used as a standalone system or configured into other vital-sign monitoring tools. A bag under the monitor still collects urine the old-fashioned way so readouts on the digital screen can be cross-checked with a glance.

    For now, the company is sticking with this one application. However, in its pipeline are plans for developing tools to check for certain biomarkers in the urine. But that’s down the road, says Bash.

    The problem of kidney injury is acute, because some of the complications can severely alter the quality of one’s life, or in the worse cases can be fatal. While there are other tests for kidney injury, such as a urine tests, they take time that no doctor has to spare if an injury is suspected.

    If doctors could detect a problem sooner, everyone wins: The hospital can free up more beds, healthcare costs go down and the patient can look forward to a longer, healthier life.