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Getting right anaesthetic needle technology through novel forming and coating processes

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Improving anaesthetic needle technology

EU-funded researchers developed novel technology for delivery of local anaesthetics that could boost European industry and beat the competition from imports.

Industrial Technologies

In the not too distant past, most medical interventions other than filling a cavity required full-blown operations under general anaesthesia. Thanks to tremendous advances in medical technology, many are now possible with outpatient-surgery using local anaesthesia applied with spinal/epidural needles. Local anaesthesia has the effect of blocking nerve impulses from a certain area so that pain is not sensed and a motor response to the intervention is not elicited. Nerve stimulation has enhanced the success rate of nerve block compared to the use of anatomical landmarks. In this case, the anaesthesia needle has a dual role. The needle delivers a small current to elicit a motor response. When the appropriate motor response is elicited indicating correct location, the needle delivers the anaesthetic. Currently, imports from China, India and the United States dominate the market. European scientists initiated the ‘Getting right anaesthetic needle technology through novel forming and coating processes’ (GRANT) project to develop new technology for improved anaesthetic needle systems and beat the competition. Technical objectives included development of a bipolar coating allowing for more precise and local current generation. Current is delivered through one pole and returns through the other such that current spread to other tissue is limited and stimulation of specific nerves or nerve bundles is more precise. The novel three-layer coating consisted of an innermost insulating layer on the metal needle, a conducting layer in the middle and an outer insulating layer with minimal friction induced by tissue contact as the needle penetrates. Secondly, the GRANT team developed a novel needle-forming process to reduce needle breakage. They also investigated rolling two needles at once to reduce production costs. GRANT project results have the potential to create hundreds of jobs given that the current production capacity of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is insufficient to meet demand. Commercialisation of GRANT technologies has the potential to provide a jumpstart to the development of high value-added anaesthetic needles within the EU.

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