Funding for device that measures blood supply during surgery

Research scientist Dr Michel Nieuwoudt has been awarded a Health Research Council fellowship to develop a non-invasive device to identify ischaemia tissue during pancreatic surgery.

Dr Michel Nieuwoudt

Ischaemia is the restriction of oxygen and blood to tissue and is one of the most challenging aspects of surgery. Without an adequate blood supply, tissues die and surgical joins break down and leak, resulting in postoperative complications with significant health and economic costs.

Dr Nieuwoudt receives the Charles Hercus Fellowship of $482,706 over three years from the Health Research Council to develop technology that uses spectroscopy – the analysis of wavelengths in the light spectrum -with a custom-designed fibre optic probe that will allow surgeons to measure the oxygen saturation of the blood or tissue in real time during surgery.

While the focus of this research is on pancreatic surgery and post-mastectomy breast reconstruction surgery, ischaemia is an important risk factor in almost all surgical specialties, including plastic surgery, gastro-oesophageal surgery, colorectal surgery, urological surgery, vascular surgery, and transplantation.

Several rapid and non-invasive objective methods for measuring tissue oxygenation and total haemoglobin have been investigated in the past but the new device would enable objective and highly localised identification and characterisation of ischaemic tissue.

The work is a multi-disciplinary research project involving both science and medical health researchers and including leading surgeons Professor John Windsor and Dr Micelle Locke. Dr Nieuwoudt says she is delighted to be awarded the Fellowship.

“Spectroscopic methods for non-invasive analysis of tissue are photonic applications that have enormous potential to address health challenges that we know are only going to increase,” she says.

“Innovation in this area not only has the potential to contribute to better health outcomes for New Zealanders but also to the economy by positioning New Zealand at the forefront of international leading-edge research in this area.”

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