How our engineers played a vital role in creating a medical breakthrough
This article was previously published on www.philips.nl
Sometimes combining existing technologies can deliver a medical breakthrough. Recently Philips announced a new solution that combines CT imaging with an angiography system. Thanks to this combination, interventional physicians can perform more complex procedures in a minimally invasive way, including oncology, stroke, and trauma care.
Jeroen van Pelt (Electronics Designer) and Joost Groenen (Development Engineer) have been working on a vital technical element of this solution; creating a CT scanner that is able to move on rails. This would allow the CT scanner to be used in combination with an angiography system at the same patient table. This engineering solution helped to change the paradigm of bringing different modalities to the patient.
CT scans during surgery
Jeroen: “A CT scanner is normally a large ring that patients go into. Our task was to develop a system allowing the entire CT scanner to slide around the operating table – and thus the patient.”
By putting the CT scanner on rails and allowing it to be used in combination with other imaging equipment such as the Azurion angiography system, surgeons can perform a CT scan during surgery, in order to quickly take an accurate 3D scan of the patient.
A CT scanner is normally a large ring that patients go into. Our task was to develop a system allowing the entire CT scanner to slide around the operating table – and thus the patient.
Jeroen van Pelt
Jeroen and Joost are part of Philips Engineering Solutions, a team of engineers and technical advisors deployed by both Philips and external customers to implement medical and high-tech innovations.
As an electrical engineer, Jeroen mainly focused on the power supply in the project: “I mainly specialize in designing printed circuit boards, but this project involved a lot more: Providing the entire system with electricity and the necessary data connections, while the entire system moves back and forth on rails. The normal CT scanner is not set up for this, which was quite a challenge.”
Joost specializes in control technology: “I’m involved in system control. This means using sensors to measure what a system does and adjusting accordingly, in order to get the CT scanner to the right place as quickly and accurately as possible.”
Combining diagnosis and treatment in the same procedure
The greatest improvement for physicians and patients lies in the combination of diagnosis and treatment in the same procedure. “Azurion was already using X-ray images allowing phycisians to see where they are going with a catheter and where they are operating. A CT scan allows you to generate a high quality 3D image of the patient with a larger area. This means that you can already see during the the effect during the intervention. And as such, you may avoid an extra procedure, or that a patient has to be moved to another room during an operation for a CT scan.”
A CT scan allows you to generate a 3D image of the patient with a larger area. This means that you can already see during the operation whether the patient is treated effectively. And as such, you may avoid an extra procedure.
From PCB to cable chain
To achieve this, CT scanner on rails was needed. And that required quite a few adjustments to the CT technology, as Jeroen explains: “There is quite a lot involved in this, in the field of electrical engineering alone. I always used to work at circuit board level and now I was suddenly working with a large system, with a cable chain containing several hundreds of meters of cable.”
They both think that variety is the best thing about their job. Joost says: “We sometimes work on Philips projects, sometimes for external customers. Every time, it is completely different, and you learn a lot from that. One time you’re working on a product for the semiconductor market with nanometer accuracy, where every detail is checked. While, the next time, you will be working on a large medical system that must function properly and safely in a hospital environment between patients and medical staff.”
They also enjoy a lot of freedom in their role. “Within a project you can often take on the role that you’d like to play,” says Jeroen. “As an electronics designer, I also receive plenty of opportunities to evolve in other areas. For example, I’ve learned a lot about architecture in many projects, which helps you understand how a system works.”
Steep learning curve
The steep learning curve that they both experienced is also partly due to the knowledge and expertise that are available within Philips Engineering Solutions, as Joost explains: “We have a lot of in-house experience, a mix of theoretical and practical specialists, so that, if you have a question, there is always someone who can answer it. And, last but not least, there is room to show what you can do and to develop in a direction that you want.”
Every day we are looking for ways to improve life – sometimes in small steps, sometimes in big leaps. Within Philips, many talents are working on technological innovations for care and health.