Air Free is a redesigned 'drip chamber' (a common component in all IV drip setups) which prevents air entrainments in intravenous drip lines - specifically entrainments as a result of rigid fluid containers. It works by the addition of a floating flexible seal. The seal floats when there is liquid in the drip chamber and when the infusion container empties - causing the fluid level in the drip chamber to fall - the seal descends and engages. As a result of this the drip line is held primed, and air is not entrained. This simple redesign increases patient safety on two levels. Firstly, by preventing air entrainments there is a reduction in staff distraction hence allowing clinicians to carry out their primary duties and secondly, the device reduces the chance of fatal air embolisms. In addition to this Air Free offers a visual warning when an infusion has stopped in a bid to reduce the amount of time patients are not receiving their prescribed drug supply.
Air Entrainment in Intravenous Drip Lines is a worldwide medical safety issue which affects between 30-50% of drip admissions. Air Entrainment, is the phenomenon of air being drawn into the infusion line forming bubbles. This causes staff distraction, wasted removal time, interruption to patient drug supply and can lead to fatal Air Embolism. Air Entrainment via rigid fluid containers accounted for one 1/3rd of all entrainments during research, however more importantly, entrainments via rigid fluid containers are potentially more dangerous due to their inherent large volume and associated time consuming removal process.
This outwardly simple solution has been developed in constant collaboration with medical staff. The project began with both quantative and qualitative research in a variety of medical environments exposing the vast number of mechanisms that air can be entrained by. After identification of potentially the most dangerous mechanism, extensive functional prototyping was carried out utilising modern rapid prototyping techniques and hands on silicone moulding in the workshop. Moving the project from paper into 3D at an early stage has been key to yielding a fully functional solution under academic time constraints, and as such the development of the business plan with a view to commercialising the project in the future is now ongoing.