Skip to main content
Back
Sorin Poppa sitting on a chair at a workbench, holding the Pathfinder ePATH catheter kit which is attached to wires on his workbench.
Sorin Popa holding up Pathfinder Medical’s regulatory approved ePATH catheter kit

Reducing surgeries for dialysis patients

Pathfinder Medical has invented a minimally invasive catheter guidance technology that will improve clinical outcomes for patients across the globe.

Over 3.5 million people worldwide have kidney conditions that require their blood to be routinely artificially filtered. This haemodialysis treatment means that their circulatory system needs to be regularly connected to a dialysis machine. To enable this, patients currently undergo a surgical procedure to prepare their vessels by forming a fistula, which is a connection between an artery and a vein in their arm. Pathfinder Medical’s electronic catheter guidance technology enables clinicians to connect these blood vessels in a much less invasive way.

Sorin Popa, Founder and CEO, studied electrical engineering before doing a master’s in bioengineering at Imperial College London. During this master’s, he learned of an unmet clinical need for a more reliable method for patients with kidney failure to receive dialysis. The technical challenge was how to safely enable clinicians to connect blood vessels together in a more reliable way and without requiring open surgery. Sorin applied his electrical engineering background and research experience to develop a completely new method based on electric field guidance that enables clinicians to precisely position catheters within blood vessels and connect them to form a fistula. This is a safe way for patients to receive haemodialysis and the same technology can also be used to bypass peripheral arterial blockages.

The ePATH’s electronic guidance system enables a clinician to cross between vessels that are quite far apart without open surgery.

The ePATH procedure replaces the current surgical option to access the vascular system, which has a more than 50% failure rate and is carried out by creating a dissection near the wrist. The ePATH’s electronic guidance system enables a clinician to cross between vessels that are quite far apart without open surgery. The catheter system can be used to connect blood vessels using a small covered tube known as a ‘stent graft’. It can also be used to bypass blocked vessels for those with peripheral arterial disease, which affects over 200 million patients globally.

Current vascular access options for dialysis patients often block up, requiring repeated costly repair operations (costing $4.6 billion a year in the US). The ePATH procedure improves outcomes for patients by reducing stress, discomfort and the risk of vascular access problems. It also reduces costs for healthcare providers by improving the reliability of the access site and reducing the likelihood of costly repeat procedures.

In just five years, Pathfinder Medical has gone from a prototype to receiving CE Mark regulatory approval and gaining UK and US patents on the technology. The device has been clinically tested and has further clinical trials with the NHS planned.

Sorin won the Royal Academy of Engineering’s ERA Foundation Award, becoming a member of the Enterprise Hub, a network for engineering entrepreneurs from across the UK. He recently won the Sir George Macfarlane Medal, presented to the overall winner of the RAEng Engineers Trust Young Engineer of the Year awards. It is awarded to a young engineer demonstrating excellence in the early stage of their career.

***
This article has been adapted from "Innovation Watch- Reducing surgeries for dialysis patients", which originally appeared in the print edition of Ingenia 84 (September 2020).

Keep up-to-date with Ingenia for free

Subscribe

Related content

Health & medical

A person holding an Owlstone Medical device that captures breath samples.

An easier way to diagnose disease

A breathalyser that can save lives and money won the 2018 MacRobert Award. Breath Biopsy®, the chemical analysis of volatile compounds in exhaled breath, lies behind this innovative approach to medical diagnosis. Science writer Michael Kenward OBE learned about the clever engineering behind the technology and how it is being used to collect and analyse breath samples on a wider scale.

Professor Sir Saeed Zahedi OBE FREng standing on a stage in front of a microphone, giving a talk, with a board saying 'Innovation is great Britain' behind him.

Developing the first integrated prosthetic leg

Professor Sir Saeed Zahedi OBE RDI FREng combined his interest in mechanical engineering and medicine during a time where biomedical engineering only had a few research groups. He is now Chief Technology Officer and Technical Director of the Blatchford Group, running a team that developed the first integrated prosthetic leg.

A side-profile X-ray of a head, where wires which are post-operative electrodes have been inserted into the brain.

Bioelectronic devices to treat neurological disorders

Cochlear implants and heart pacemakers have drastically improved the lives of many people with long-term health conditions. Professor Tim Denison looks at implantable medical devices and the engineering behind them as digital technologies and miniaturisation promise to deliver new therapies and help us to understand how the nervous system works.

Two medical professionals wearing scrubs looking at a transplant liver in the OrganOx machine. Oxygenated and deoxygenated blood tubing are supplying blood to the liver.

Keeping transplant livers alive

The OrganOx metra® is the world’s first fully automated system for keeping a human donor liver functioning for up to 24 hours outside the body. The invention breaks with 40 years of traditional organ preservation in ice, doubling the length of time that donor organs can be preserved before transplantation. Geoff Watts talked to members of the OrganOx team to find out how this breakthrough came about.