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Shape-shifting ultrasound stickers detect post-surgical complications

First-of-its-kind device ‘tags’ an organ to monitor abnormal, life-threatening fluid leaks

Researchers led by Northwestern University and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have developed a new, first-of-its-kind sticker that enables clinicians to monitor the health of patients’ organs and deep tissues with a simple ultrasound device.

When attached to an organ, the soft, tiny sticker changes in shape in response to the body’s changing pH levels, which can serve as an early warning sign for post-surgery complications such as anastomotic leaks. Clinicians then can view these shape changes in real time through ultrasound imaging.

Currently, no existing methods can reliably and non-invasively detect anastomotic leaks — a life-threatening condition that occurs when gastrointestinal fluids escape the digestive system. By revealing the leakage of these fluids with high sensitivity and high specificity, the non-invasive sticker can enable earlier interventions than previously possible. Then, when the patient has fully recovered, the biocompatible, bioresorbable sticker simply dissolves away — bypassing the need for surgical extraction.

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