News Release

Developing a new technology for preventing catheter obstructions in patients with hydrocephaly

This technology will allow for the preventive treatment of a frequent complication affecting approximately 8000 individuals in Andalusia alone

Peer-Reviewed Publication

University of Seville


image: Selection of photograms from demo video (Video 2) demonstrating cavitation inside a hydrocephalus valve filled with water and graphite powder over. The graphite tracer at t = 0 is deposited on the lower wall of the valve in the absence of ultrasonic waves. The remaining photograms illustrate resuspension of the graphite particles within 1 second of ultrasonic radiation. view more 

Credit: Universidad de Sevilla

The early diagnosis and treatment of this complication constitute a considerable medical challenge, given that there are currently no technologies or preventive protocols for preventing it. With time, the complication affects a considerable majority of patients with hydrocephalus with implanted shunts. It is estimated that there are approximately 6000–10,000 individuals (adults and children) with hydrocephalus in Andalusia alone.

The experiments, conducted within a European project known as FUSCLEAN, demonstrated the technology and showed that concentrating ultrasound waves emitted from outside the body can, in a controlled manner, detach materials from the inside of shunts implanted in the brains of patients with hydrocephalus. The FUSCLEAN technology enables preventive cleaning of the catheters and valves without affecting the brain or other areas of the body.

The study has recently been published in the journal Operative Neurosurgery. The concept and technology were designed and developed by Emilio Gómez, professor of Applied Physics of the Superior Technical School of Engineering of the University of Seville, in collaboration with Javier Márquez, neurosurgeon of the Department of Neurosurgery of University Hospital Virgen del Rocío and the Biomedical Institute of Seville (IBIS) and associate professor at University of Seville.

This research includes numerical 3D simulations, experiments with actual catheters and valves in mannequins and laboratory models.


A technology for a relevant disease

Hydrocephalus is a highly relevant neurological disease. If untreated, the disease is fatal. In most cases (80%), the treatment consists of implanting a system of cerebrospinal fluid shunts (using a catheter and a valve) towards a distal cavity (typically, the peritoneum). However, complications are common and difficult to anticipate. The most common are obstructions of the flow through the implanted catheters and valves and require immediate neurosurgical treatment due to the risk of severe neurological damage and even death. These complications have a deep social impact on the patients’ quality of life, their families, and caregivers and have a high financial cost.

FUSCLEAN technology will allow for the development of personalised preventive treatment, according to the individuals’ conditions and their shunt, which could be scheduled within the patients’ periodic check-ups.


The only Andalusian project selected

The project’s concept and design began within the framework of a European program of high impact and repercussion (ATTRACT Program), led by CERN, whose objective was to develop innovative technology for science and society. More than 1200 proposals from 40 countries were presented to this program; FUSCLEAN was the only Andalusian project selected for funding.

The implementation of the research also has the support of the Government of Andalusia, through the Andalusian International Excellence Campus-Tech of the Universities of Malaga and Seville in the areas of health and social wellbeing and the collaboration of the Foundation for Innovation and Prospective Health in Spain (FIPSE) and Technological Corporation of Andalusia (CTA), in charge of the transfer of technology.

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