A revolutionary diagnostic tool may allow doctors to discover symptoms of sepsis (blood poisoning) much sooner than what is possible today. If successful, it could save countless lives.
Six individuals are gathered in a meeting room at St. Olav’s Hospital’s intensive care unit. They are all eager to test the tool, called SepCease. Four of them are senior consultants, working with and doing research on sepsis (blood poisoning), and one is a researcher, part of Trondheim’s world-leading ultrasound community. The sixth is Siri Ann Mauseth, project manager at NTNU Technology Transfer. She is in charge of taking this innovation project to the next level. This unique interdisciplinary collaboration between NTNU’s renowned ultrasound community and infectious medicine and intensive care physicians at St. Olav’s Hospital will hopefully result in the development of the tool that can help many people, as the numbers are grim.
“Sepsis is among the leading causes of death worldwide, and in half of all deaths in Norwegian hospitals, sepsis has played a part,” says intensive care anaesthesiologist Erik Solligård. “One of the reasons for this is that it is almost impossible to diagnose the condition early. This means most patients enter the critical stage before we find out what’s wrong and can start treating them. This also means that these patients are hospitalized and in intensive care for prolonged periods of time, which means treatment is very expensive.
A welcome technology
When sepsis occurs, it alters the circulation in the small blood vessels (microcirculation). Early diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics is therefore essential to reduce the mortality rate. There is currently no good way to diagnose sepsis early, and clinicians have wanted this for a long time. The five people in the meeting room at St. Olav’s are hoping ultrasound technology is a viable solution.
“There is currently no technology on the market that is able to continuously monitor microcirculation in real-time, where the output is a simple numeric value,” says Senior Consultant Daniel Bergum, who plays a central role in the execution of the study.
“That’s why it is essential that we find new solutions to this serious problem,” says Jan Kristian Damås, who is a professor and an infectious medicine specialist. “The medical profession has wanted this for a long time, and with this project, we have the opportunity to develop something we really have faith in.”
“The research that’s been carried out in the last 20 years has not produced any new, revolutionary tools or knowledge on this topic. What we know is that an early diagnosis is critical, but with the tools we have on hand, that is proving very difficult,” says Idar Kirkeby-Garstad.
“We’re hoping this probe can be a gateway, allowing us to ‘see’ early alterations in microcirculation, so that we can find the right diagnosis. In addition, we believe that SepCease can help us measure how well the patient is responding to treatment. That factor, too, is highly uncertain in today’s situation. In time, we believe that a tailored, patient-oriented treatment of sepsis will be possible with this tool,” says Erik Solligård, intensive care anaesthesiologist and associate professor at NTNU.