Wireless bio-patch could improve post-operative outcomes following mastectomy

Complications that sometimes occur following breast reconstruction surgery could be identified and rectified sooner with a new bio-patch sensing device developed by a team led by Imperial College.


Measuring 1.8 x 1.1cm, the so-called bio-patch was attached to a group of patients for 48 hours following breast reconstruction surgery to continuously monitor oxygen saturation levels in transferred tissue, which is a key indicator of whether there is a risk of reconstruction failure.

According to Prof Guang-Zhong Yang, director of the Hamlyn Centre at Imperial College London, poor blood supply or failure of breast reconstruction surgery can have a major impact on a breast cancer patient’s recovery, prognosis and mental wellbeing.

“Clinical signs of failure often occur late and patients may be returned to the operating room on clinical suspicion,” said Prof Yang, who led the Smart Sensing for Surgery project. “Our new bio-patch tackles this problem by providing objective data as an early warning system for medical staff, enabling earlier and simpler interventions, as well as giving patients increased peace of mind.”

Patient’s routinely donate their own tissue to help rebuild breasts following mastectomy. The procedure achieves high success rates but early detection of possible problems could help further reduce post-surgical complications and cut surgery failure rates.

The new device employs near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) to capture and transmit encrypted data using sensors that are hermetically sealed inside biocompatible materials.

Success during trials means the bio-patch could become available for widespread clinical use within 2-3 years. To that end, the multinational team is exploring the scope to secure commercial or National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) support for the next stage of development and commercialisation.

The device is now being adapted to help monitor conditions such as dementia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The EPSRC-funded Smart Sensing for Surgery project is said to have achieved other promising advances, including development of sensors that can be implanted just under the skin to provide continuous measurement of pulse rate, temperature and pH balance, and development of ‘smart’ catheters.