BWHers' Invention Could Be Adopted by U.K. Health System
BWH’s Max Weinmann has invented a chemiluminescent laryngoscope (a model of which he is holding above), which will be presented to the United Kingdom’s National Health System for potential incorporation into its standard of care.
Max Weinmann, MD, a critical care
physician in BWH's Department of Anesthesiology, was driving through a blizzard
on the mountain roads of Utah in 2009 when he came across a multi-vehicle
accident. He reacted immediately, helping to remove one of the drivers, a
pregnant woman, from her crushed vehicle.
Once first responders arrived, they
and Weinmann attempted to resuscitate the woman inside the ambulance through
intubation, which involves placing a tube in a patient's throat and windpipe to
keep the airway open for ventilator support. A metal, electric intubation
device, called a laryngoscope, lifts the tongue and jaw out of the way so that
the tube can be placed. But in this case, a traditional laryngoscope failed
twice due to electrical faults and battery failure-issues possibly compounded by the snow and freezing temperature.
After some time, they successfully resuscitated the woman, but Weinmann
realized that a more robust, reliable and non-electrical device was needed for such
And so, the concept of the
chemiluminescent laryngoscope was born.
Weinmann began sketching his ideas
for an improved device on napkins and notepads, and molding rough prototypes with
modeling clay. His device would be made of lightweight polycarbonate and it
would be disposable, costing about $14 per device. It would be waterproof,
resistant to temperature fluctuations, sturdy, non-toxic and able to meet the
strength and luminosity of a traditional largynoscope. Light would be created
by an internal catalyst that would activate a chemical reaction within the
device. Weinmann won a grant to develop his design.
"A prototype emerged that was
sufficiently respectable to present to industry," he said. Cyalume Industries
of Springfield, Mass., a leader in chemical light technologies, was approached
with the prototype, and the company was immediately interested. "Ultimately, the
laryngoscope was refined until testing demonstrated its clinical readiness."
Cyalume has since been presenting
Weinmann's device to the military and groups overseas. Additionally, a British
consulting firm will introduce the device to the United Kingdom's National
Health System for potential incorporation into its standard of care. To
Weinmann's knowledge, this is the first time that a Brigham-originated device
is being evaluated to potentially become part of the standard of care for
"I think it's quite exciting," said
Weinmann, who is from Australia. "Irrespective of the outcome, it is quite an
honor to be considered."