In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 100,000 infants develop hydrocephalus yearly. Unfortunately, due to the lack of diagnostic tools, many children are poorly treated and not diagnosed.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging(MRI) is the most preferred medical diagnostic technology for diagnosing and treating diseases such as hydrocephalus. Yet, it is currently out of reach for 70 per cent of the world's population due to its high price and complexity in functioning. Moreover, in Low-middle income countries such as Uganda, MRI scanners are not available due to the financial, infrastructural and maintenance barriers.
Therefore the research team of Penn state university, Leiden University Medical Centre and the Delft University of Technology has joint forces to develop a low-cost, sustainable and portable MRI scanner operating at a lower field (50mT).
Such technology can meet clinical needs at the point of care or in low and middle-income countries.
For a successful and safe implementation of the low field MRI scanner in LMICs, the device must conform to safety quality norms and adequately address the contextual challenges within sub-Saharan Africa. This requires the low field MRI scanner to be equipped with all necessary functionalities to function and sustain for the brain imaging of infants with hydrocephalus.
Additional complexity arises during the brain imaging besides the functionality of the technology, the fit with the context, which is the human factors.
Accurate brain imaging relies on a settled child lying in the MRI scanner to acquire the necessary sequences for qualitative images. Unfortunately, infants in low resource settings are not sedated and prone to move due to discomfort. This may lead to an incomplete or unsuccessful scan; costly follow-up rescheduled scans with the additional inconvenience of an anxious caretaker. In addition, significant motion during the scanning can mislead or inhibit interpretation, leading to diagnostic errors.
Therefore, this project aims to develop a human-centred bed system of the low field MRI scanner that allows immobilization of the patient by designing a comfortable bed system that is inexpensive, safe and of sufficient quality to diagnose hydrocephalus.
I designed a concept for the comfortable MRI system through an iterative design process based on the double diamond method. Stakeholder involvement, prototyping, and validation through experimenting lead as the main design inputs for further improvements of the concept's functionality, comfort, and usability.
This resulted in a complete MRI system that integrates the comfortable bed system in a sustainable MRI system while addressing the contextual challenges. In addition, this MRI system enables an ergonomic and safe operation, facilitates secure and comfortable insertion and removal of the patient from the machine, and allows mothers and operators to remain close and in visual contact with the patient.
A functional system, divided into the mattress, head immobilizer, mattress holder, double mirror and swaddle blanket, has been developed and optimized for local production and assembly. With the combination of these systems in an integrated design, MR imaging can be provided by MRI technicians with limited knowledge and reduction of human workload. In addition, by introducing the low field MRI scanner, the accessibility of MR Imaging in scarce resource settings will increase clinical outcomes and support the treatment of hydrocephalus.