By Dr. Marion Pierson
As a 23-year-old Pediatric Resident at Georgetown University Children’s Hospital, I knew there had to be a better way to secure an endotracheal (ET) tube to a premature baby’s face. Working in the NICU I was helping to care for babies who were often struggling for life. Premature babies have multiple issues; their skin and their breathing are almost expected problems. It broke my heart to see what happened to them as we saved them. Over the next ten years of pediatric practice, I kept coming up with ideas to address these problem areas until I found what I think is the central solution.
In those life-saving moments of intubating a baby to improve their ability to breathe, the skin is not a major focus. But this essential tube going into the mouth and down to the trachea has to be secured on the outside to the very small piece of real estate: the baby’s face. For most new babies and especially premature babies, the skin is not fully developed. It is easy to harm this skin inadvertently with adhesive. But it is essential to secure it to ensure respiration.
Tape often gets soaked in saliva, becomes gooey, stretches and fails. I asked myself the question, how do we take tape out of the equation but still keep the ET tube in the right place?
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I came up with a solution and created a prototype. I tried to interest medical device companies in my solution, knowing it was a major improvement to the current approach, but I couldn’t get the large manufacturers to listen. I was stuck. The commercial world of medical devices was foreign to me, yet I fully understood the clinical side that was not being addressed.
After years of trying to move this solution into the medical device world, I met another inventor who was going through a similar process. We teamed up and did some research on how to overcome this hurdle.
In this search I found the Institute for Pediatric Innovation. I discovered that their mission lined up with exactly what we were trying to accomplish. In my initial discussions with the Institute, I felt that I had found the missing piece that would help me connect to medical device companies. They understood that clinicians had to be part of improving care because we knew what didn’t work, and we could help fix it.
The Institute for Pediatric Innovation saw what I had started would have a huge impact on health care in the NICU. I am now part of their process for the next steps in prototype improvement, in clinical evaluation before finding a commercial sponsor. I also have more device solutions on my list. My goal is to get better devices to the pediatric community, and I see the Institute filling in that commercialization process that is so unknown to those of us providing the care. It is a team effort now, and I believe I will see my ET securement device taken through all the steps it must go through to become a reality.
Dr. Marion Pierson is a pediatrician at Village Pedatrics in Prairie Village, Kan. She received her undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and completed her internship/residency at Georgetown University Children’s Medical Center.