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Engineering Students Win Design Awards To Improve Glucose Control In ICU Patients

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Engineering Students Win Design Awards To Improve Glucose Control In ICU Patients

Collaboration between Christchurch Hospital's intensive care unit (ICU) and Canterbury University's Department of Mechanical Engineering students has resulted in a prestigious award.

Four final-year University of Canterbury engineering students: Alicia Evans, James Steel (Mechatronics Engineering), Chia Siong Tan and Logan Ward (Mechanical Engineering), won the 2011 Ray Mayer Award for Excellence in Student Design for their final year project called, Active Insulin Control, STAR (Stochastic Targeted Glycaemic Control).

Intensive Care Specialist Geoff Shaw says the research resulted from the unique close and collaborative relationship between Canterbury District Health Board's Department of Intensive Care and Mechanical Engineering.

"No one else in the world has engineering students working with doctors and nurses at the patient's bedside," Dr Shaw says.

"The strength of our work has largely been because of mutual trust, respect and willingness to share from each profession's sphere of knowledge."

Professor Geoff Chase and Dr Aaron LeCompte (Mechanical Engineering) supervised the work as part of the final year project course. Dr Shaw, together with intensive care nursing staff, provided clinical input and support.

The project used model-based therapeutics which can provide solutions to many of the clinical difficulties clinicians face every day, Dr Shaw says.

The research examined the rapid changes in insulin sensitivity of a critically ill patient and developed a model to determine a safe and appropriate one to two hourly insulin dose rate. It has resulted in the development of a computerised system, STAR (Stochastic Targeted Glycaemic Control). This means less glucose variability and hyperglycaemia, which can be associated with organ failure and death.

There is significant international interest in STAR with its unrivalled safety profile and its adaptability to changing patient conditions. The system is undergoing pilot clinical trials at the Christchurch Hospital ICU and has also been tested in Belgium using an alternative interface at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Liege.

This 'engineering' approach to the biology of illness provides better insight into what is happening to our patients in real time. In other words, disease modelling also can be diagnostic and will improve the timeliness and appropriateness of therapeutic interventions," Dr Shaw says.

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