A spinal tap, or a lumbar puncture, is a diagnostic procedure to collect cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The procedure is performed by inserting a hollow needle into the subarachnoid space in the lower back of spinal column. While there is a palpation technique to feel for the vertebrae in order to guess where to insert the needle, the technique fails 70% of the time. This not only cause unnecessary pain to patients, but results in higher risk of complications and readmissions. In addition, the physician has to measure the opening pressure in the spinal column, which can be both inaccurate and an unnecessarily difficult process with current methods.
The Texas-based startup IntuiTap Medical is developing a device specifically designed for spinal punctures that integrates imaging of the spine with needle guidance and analytics. When placed against the patient’s back, the device can detect the underlying vertebrae, even through multiple layers of soft tissue. An image of the underlying bones is constructed and displayed on the LCD screen attached to the handheld device. The screen also show, through a predictive algorithm based on depth and insertion angle, where the needle will end up if inserted at that specific location. In addition, the needle guide helps the user advance the needle at a consistent angle, improving optimal success.
Once the needle is placed, a digital pressure sensor incorporated into the device provides confirmation that the physician is in the right place and accurately measures the opening pressure. The device also include a fluid collection system that allow for an easy collection of cerebrospinal fluid, which reduce the risk of spillage and exposure to potentially contaminated fluid that could transmit multiple diseases, including HIV.
The current palpation technique used to guide needle insertion is far from adequate, and an average of over 4 attempts is needed to properly place the spinal needle. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on how difficult the case is, taking up valuable resources. Not to mention the unnecessary pain it creates for patients. IntuiTap’s innovative device eliminates the guesswork and unpredictability by providing a real-time map of the underlying vertebrae, greatly improving their chance of success. It reduce any risks and complications associated with the procedure, both for the patient and the physician, while decreasing costs. The cutting-edge technology turns every spinal tap into an easy and predictable case, significantly increasing efficiency.
IntuiTap emerged from the Texas Medical Center’s Biodesign Fellowship that aim to boost entrepreneurship in digital health and medical devices, and has been part of their accelerator, TMCx. The startup was also a semifinalist of the Medtech Innovator Competition, where they participated in a four-month virtual accelerator program, before being showcased at AdvaMed 2016. In October 2016, IntuiTap won the Insight Product Development’s HealthTech Startup Competition, co-hosted with MATTER, which aim to improve lives by bringing innovative health solutions to patients.