Grant means researchers eye markets for new feeding tube

Hull University researchers have won a National Institute for Health Research Invention for Innovation grant worth £640,000 to develop a unique feeding tube prototype into a market-ready product.

It means that critically ill patients that need to be fed through nasogastric tubes will be able to receive safer and more secure treatment. Feeding patients via tubes is common practice in hospital wards, neonatal and intensive-care units, and in homes where parents are caring for children with diseases, or who have a disability that means they cannot eat normally.

Feeding tubes usually need to be inserted into the stomach, but because there is currently no definitive, safe and reliable method of verifying where the tube is being placed, they can sometimes be misplaced. If they are inserted into the lungs, for example, this can lead to serious and sometimes fatal consequences.

Now, the team from Hull University is setting out to create a fail-safe detection mechanism for the placement of feeding tubes that is reliable and cheap to manufacture.

The university team is made up of Barbara Elliott, senior lecturer in Nursing in the Faculty of Health and Social Care, Prof John Greenman, director of the Clinical Biosciences Institute, Dr Jay Wadhawan, lecturer in chemistry, Dr Robert Singh, commercial development officer and John MacFie, Prof of Surgery in the Postgraduate Medical Institute.

They have created a prototype based on an earlier invention developed with Prof Linda Shields and medical colleagues, which has been patented. The NIHR funding will enable the further development, manufacture and testing of the prototype over the next three years.

Barbara Elliott, who is leading the project, said: ’A fail-safe mechanism to detect the correct location of a nasogastric tube would be of great benefit to nursing practice. It would increase nurses’ confidence in the delivery of nasogastric feeding and reduce incidences of complications from mal-positioned tubes, thereby increasing patient safety. The system also has the potential to reduce the need for X-rays to confirm its location.’