Using Optical Fibers and Fiber-Based Sensors in Healthcare

There is, and will always be, a need for medical care. However, this need has been dramatically accentuated in recent years by a global convergence of chronic diseases (for example obesity, arteriosclerosis, diabetes, and cancer) and a growing world population, which is thought to exceed 7.3 billion people which it is at present, increasing at an annual rate of around 1.1%.

These factors have generated a universal dependence on advanced biomedical instrumentation and sensors as tools for patient diagnosis, monitoring, treatment, and care. High quality tools that enable minimally invasive surgery (MIS), as well as the applications within the burgeoning field of medical robotics and computer-assisted surgical systems (MRCAS), are growing in demand.

Optical Fibers and Fiber-Based Sensors

Optical fiber and fiber-based sensors (FOS) are perfectly suited for a broad range of invasive and non-invasive uses in clinical research, medical monitoring, diagnostics and the life sciences. They vary in use from mere lighting guides for illumination purposes; to fiberscopes for observation of internal organs; to high-power resistant assemblies for laser delivery uses.

Optical fibers have also made great inroads in more progressive applications, for instance in optical coherence tomography (OCT) probes (for non-invasive imaging of external tissue and organs), in force-sensing catheters in robotic surgery, and in intra-aortic pressure probes.

A broad variety of FOS has been produced and commercialized over the past three decades to measure a range of different physiological parameters, including body temperature, blood pressure, respiration, heart rate, blood flow, muscle displacement, cerebral activity, and many others. Furthermore, they have been applied to bio-chemical sensors to enable observations of metabolic variables and compounds (e.g. pH, blood oxygen, and glucose).

Aspect of a Miniature Fibre Optic Fabry-Perot Biomedical Pressure Sensor (Reproduced with Permission of FISO Technologies)

Aspect of a Miniature Fibre Optic Fabry-Perot Biomedical Pressure Sensor
(Reproduced with Permission of FISO Technologies)

Applications in the Healthcare Industry

The healthcare industry is pushing for the development of smaller disposable sensing catheters for use in MIS and MRCAS applications, as well as assorted patient sensing probes. Applications such as these are perfectly suited for optical fibers, as they are small in size, lightweight and are compatible with sterilization techniques.

However, biomedical sensors and devices do pose some unusual design challenges. Sensors must be safe, reliable, highly stable, biocompatible, amenable to sterilization and autoclaving, not prone to biologic rejection, and not in need of calibration or maintaining it for extended periods of time.

Conclusion

Optical fiber - and thus devices and sensors based on their use - is a powerful, versatile, and empowering technology that is currently paving the way for new research and the commercial development of biomedical sensors and instruments; as well as techniques for diagnostic, surgical and therapeutic use within the medical care industry.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Fiberguide Industries.

For more information on this source, please visit Fiberguide Industries.

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