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3-D Printing at Overlook Aids Infection Prevention

April 30, 2019

Portable IV poles are used throughout medical facilities to hold fluids and pumps and allow patients to move around without stopping therapy. Surprisingly, these poles often do not have a hook at the proper level to hang Foley catheter bags. If the bags are placed too high, it can cause a urinary infection.

To fix this issue and keep their patients healthy, a team of nurses at Overlook Medical Center has partnered with the hospital’s Infection Prevention Committee and catheter-associated urinary tract infection team.

“The problem is you need a solution on every IV pole so that a patient can ambulate,” says nurse educator Mary Anne King, since it is important to get patients out of bed as part of their recovery. The team found that commercially available attachments were expensive and would not fit every IV pole at Overlook.

Austin Murphy, Overlook Medical Center’s director of facilities and clinical engineering, volunteered his department’s wide range of skills to assist.

“We felt there was an opportunity to take the creativity in our department and apply it in a way that can enhance patient care on the floors,” he says.

They had a secret weapon: Overlook’s brand-new 3-D printer, recently purchased for the team by the Overlook Foundation. These printers are specialized devices that can make three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file.

The engineering team created prototypes of an adjustable bracket that can be attached to IV poles, with hooks to allow Foley bags and other drains to be hung at the proper level. Then they sent the prototypes to the 3-D printer, which produces the hooks in durable plastic. It takes approximately six hours to print one bracket and costs $1.50 per hook.

The next step is for the design to go to a committee to determine if it can be used in a clinical setting. Once approved, the brackets can then be produced as needed. The team is not stopping at brackets either. The 3-D printer has already been used to create other items that fix problems or replace costlier ones.