The Development of a One-Handed Knee Aspiration Mechanism to Aid in Arthrocentesis; Single-use Syringes: The Global Impact of this Technology and Why It May Not Be Suitable for Everyone

Woessner, Emma, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Baritaud, Catherine, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Barker, Shannon, EN-Biomed Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Miller, Mark, MD-ORTP Sports Med, University of Virginia
Backlund, Ian, Interns And Resident, University of Virginia

Human interaction with medical technology is the foundation of providing quality healthcare. One example of when this interaction limits a physician’s ability to deliver exceptional healthcare is during the procedure of arthrocentesis. The technical research is aimed at enhancing the physician’s utilization of a disposable syringe through the development of a new medical device, which will improve outcomes for arthrocentesis patients. The STS research takes a broader look at human interactions with medical technology. Still focusing on disposable syringes, this research investigates the risk factors associated with their use and seeks to understand their social context in various locations around the world. Tightly coupled, these projects both evaluate the use of medical syringes and ultimately, how enhancing their utilization can improve the delivery of healthcare.

The objective of the technical portion is to improve knee arthrocentesis, an orthopedic procedure in which a physician aspirates excess fluid from a swollen knee joint to alleviate pain. Currently, the method of treatment is difficult, requiring the physician to use only one hand to operate the syringe while using the other hand to compress fluid out of the patient’s knee. To improve the ergonomics of arthrocentesis, my team is developing a novel medical device called the one-handed knee aspiration mechanism. This device will attach to the syringe, providing natural hand-positing, forceful aspiration, as well as one-handed control of the syringe. The device was designed using Autodesk Fusion 360 and prototyped using a 3D printer.

Multiple iterations of the knee aspiration mechanism were designed and built. Orthopedic physicians and residents tested the device in a dry run setting, and expressed increased comfort and ease of use with the device compared to extracting the syringe plunger without the device. Implementation of this device allows for easy and comfortable one-handed control of the syringe as well as improved aspiration of fluid to help expedite the healing process for the patient. This device is more practical than using the syringe alone because it comprehends the entirety of the problem and focuses on patient outcomes as well as the physician’s needs.

Similar to the technical portion, the STS research investigates how people interact with disposable syringes. This text aims to answer the following question: how does the use of disposable syringes differ between developed and developing countries? After discovering some of the general risk factors associated with using disposable syringes, it appeared that the negative effects of using this technology were more prevalent in countries of low economic standing. To explore this hypothesis, Law and Callon’s Actor Network Theory was used to map out the local networks of the following two countries: the U.S. and Nigeria. Data from surveys and research studies conducted in healthcare facilities in these two countries were employed to determine relationships among actors in the disposable syringe network.

Analysis of the disposable syringe networks indicated that Nigeria suffers more damaging effects from utilizing single-use syringes than did the U.S. Due to their lack of financial resources, Nigeria’s healthcare facilities promoted unsafe practices and environmental damage. To mitigate some of these challenges, Nigeria can work to improve relationships within the actors of the disposable syringe network, or choose to use an alternative technology that may provide safer and more effective use. Altogether, this research provides an ethical evaluation of disposable syringes on a global scale, and a framework to assess medical devices to better understand their impact. Engineers can use this information to produce safer and more accessible medical technology in the future.

How physicians choose to utilize medical devices is essential in their practice, as seen in the example of knee arthrocentesis. However, the downstream effects of this interaction must be understood in order to identify the risks of using a medical device and to know which devices will be the safest to use. While the technological aspects of disposable syringes are important, the syringe is simply a tool, and people must decide how to use it and what impact it will have.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Actor Network Theory (ANT), Disposable syringes , Single-use medical devices , Arthrocentesis

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Shannon Barker
STS Advisor: Catherine Baritaud
Technical Team Members: Victoria Annen, Brian Rothemich

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