Auto-injector could ease stress for fertility treatment patients

A new auto-injector concept has been designed by Cambridge Consultants in a bid to ease stress for women undergoing fertility treatment.

The piOna device has been developed to help patients who need regular injections of progesterone in oil (PiO).

According to Cambridge Consultants, daily intra-muscular injections are often the most anxious part of the IVF process as they involve a long needle and typically take the patient more than a minute to administer due to the viscosity of the oil.

Progesterone supplements are a vital part of fertility treatment as the hormone helps sustain the pregnancy to full term.

The supplements usually take the form of pills or suppositories but in some cases women need higher doses of the hormone, which involves regular self-administered injections.

The complex nature of the injections, however, means some patients are unable to administer the PiO properly or delay or miss injections, which can lower the success rate of the fertility treatment.

The PiO injections involve warming the oil to make it less viscous and then using a syringe fitted with a 22-gauge, 1.5in (3.8cm) needle to inject the progesterone deep into the muscle. Patients reportedly find it difficult to find the right angle, speed and temperature to ensure correct and painless drug delivery.

In a statement, Cambridge Consultants said the new auto-injector concept guides the patient though the injection process — with audible, visual and tactile signals at each stage and the needle hidden from view — reducing the injection duration by up to 30 per cent.

The piOna device automatically warms the oil to the optimum temperature, and its ergonomic design makes it easy to hold and use.

Once the device has made contact with the skin, a small downward pressure is required to trigger the auto-injection. Cambridge Consultants noted that the technology could also be used for other viscous drugs that need to be self-injected.

As well as being faster and easier to use, the new piOna device could help reduce the amount of swelling and additional side effects around the injected area that patients have to endure. By automating the temperature and injection speed of the PiO, it will help the solution dissipate when it enters the body.

Lai Chiu Tang, senior industrial designer at Cambridge Consultants, said: ‘Fertility treatment is a very stressful and difficult process for a woman to go through and — after discussions with fertility nurses — we felt it was important to tackle the usability issues of self-administered PiO injections.

‘Providing women with the confidence to administer a drug dosage without fear of unnecessary pain and stress will open doors to this technology platform being used in all manner of drug delivery. Improving the user experience will help women all over the world to gain access to health opportunities that were previously perceived to be unobtainable.’