This E-Team is developing a safer, more controlled method of performing an epidural. The current technique involves the advancement of a needle into the epidural space, relying heavily on a steady hand and the ability to halt needle advancement once loss of resistance is detected. Since this is a time-consuming process with a complication rate of 5-20%, epidurals are not used as often as they could be; less than half of epidural-eligible patients actually receive one.
The team's device consists of a rotating blunt-tipped syringe attached to a flexible shaft and operated by a pump actuator equipped with a safety alert button. This design has four advantages over the traditional model: 1) the blunt tip allows the physician to dissect, instead of cut, through to the epidural space, making the procedure easier and safer; 2) the device uses rotation to create controlled advancement of the needle, relying less on a steady hand; 3) the flexible shaft minimizes the torque encountered with a rigid one-piece system; and 4) the design maintains the familiar and reliable loss-of-resistance method to detect the epidural space.