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Scientists Develop High-tech Plaster to Reduce Risk of DVT

by Bidita Debnath on  December 20, 2012 at 3:51 PM General Health News   - G J E 4
A high-tech plaster is being developed by scientists that's stuck to the back of the knee, which could lower the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots in the leg following surgery.
 Scientists Develop High-tech Plaster to Reduce Risk of DVT
Scientists Develop High-tech Plaster to Reduce Risk of DVT
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The plaster generates electronic pulses that stimulate a nerve, the common peroneal nerve, in the back of the knee, the Daily Mail reported.

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This nerve is responsible for making muscles in the calf, shin and foot contract.

Once the Geko has been turned on, the nerve sends signals to the muscles deep in the leg, causing them to contract every few seconds.

By zapping the nerve every few seconds for up to 30 hours at a time - until its battery runs out - the plaster triggers "micro contractions" that ensure blood is kept moving round the body, rather than collecting in the lower leg.

This "pooling" of blood is what causes the dangerous clotting that claims an estimated 25,000 lives every year in the UK.

A DVT is a blood clot in a vein, usually in the leg. It's most commonly associated with immobility, such as on a long-haul flights.

The most common cause is an operation that lasts for more than an hour (through a combination of immobility and the blood becoming sticky as a result of illness).

When we walk, the pressure on the foot and the contracting of our calf muscles helps pump blood from the legs back up to the heart. Without this action, blood starts to "pool" in the legs.

Clots can form and parts break off, becoming lodged in small blood vessels in the lungs, causing a deadly condition called a pulmonary embolism.

To prevent DVTs, patients who have had major surgery are currently given blood-thinning drugs, compression stockings or air-filled 'wraps' around the leg that squeeze the blood vessels.

The latest device, called the Geko, is disposable, battery-powered and no bigger than a wristwatch.

It has been developed by British firm Sky Medical Technology in conjunction with doctors and researchers at St Bartholomew's Hospital and Queen Mary University, both in London.

It looks like a cross between a watch and a plaster.

The larger "watch" part at one end houses a power unit, battery and an on/off button.

The power unit is connected to two electrodes, which run the length of the strap.

To use the device, a doctor peels off a protective strip to reveal a sticky gel, which not only helps fix the device to the back of the knee but also helps conduct the electrical pulses through the skin to the peroneal nerve.

Once the Geko has been turned on, the nerve sends signals to the muscles deep in the leg, causing them to contract every few seconds.

They squeeze the blood vessels and blood is pumped back up towards the heart, instead of lying still in the lower leg. Doctors can tell if the power is sufficient because the calf and foot visibly twitch when the muscles contract.

The patient feels the muscles twitching but there is no pain.

Source: ANI
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