Integrating Sensors into Catheters

Integrating sensors into catheters is a rapidly growing areas of medical device technology that has the potential to significantly improve patient outcomes.  Catheters with sensors for temperature, pressure, flow, and other parameters are becoming increasingly common. Medical professionals can then use the information from the sensors to guide medical procedures, monitor the progress of treatment, and detect potential complications. 

Types of Catheter Sensors

There are several types of sensors that can be integrated into catheters, including the ones below (among others).

  • Pressure sensors measure the pressure in the heart, blood vessels, bladder or urinary tract.  For example, blood pressure can be measured during angioplasty or intravenous drug infusion to ensure the procedure is performed safely and effectively. 
  • Temperature sensors monitor the temperature of fluids or tissue within the patient. For example, temperature sensors catheters used for ablation can monitor the local tissue temperature, which can be used to prevent overheating and damage to surrounding tissue during the ablation procedure. 
  • Flow sensors measure the flow rate of fluids passing through the catheter, e.g. monitoring urine output. Flow sensors can also measure blood flow rate by integrating a sensor near the catheter tip with an epoxy, thermoplastic reflow, micro-injection molding or laser machining.
  • Optical sensors detect changes in the catheter’s environment, such as detecting the presence of blood, urine, or other bodily fluids. These sensors can be manufactured using fiber optic or photonic crystal technologies.
  • Imaging sensors capture images of the cardiovascular system or heart, such as ultrasound, optical coherence tomography (OCT), or intravascular ultrasound (IVUS).  These imaging sensors can be integrated into the catheter’s tip or the catheter’s shaft, depending on the imaging modality used. IVUS catheters are commonly designed with an ultrasound transducer at the catheter tip, while OCT catheters have a fiber-optic probe integrated through the catheter shaft.

Testing Catheters with Sensors

Once the appropriate assembly technique has been determined, it’s essential to test the medical device’s mechanical properties, biocompatibility, electrical properties, and performance in various conditions. Mechanical testing involves testing the catheter’s flexibility, stiffness, and resistance to deformation. Electrical testing involves testing the catheter’s ability to transmit signals accurately and reliably. Performance testing involves testing the catheter’s ability to provide accurate data under different flow rates or temperatures.

By Tanner Hargens