Press briefing

Artificial sphincter system with microfluid actuators

October 09, 2017

Incontinence is among the most common diseases – approximately 8 million people suffer from it in Germany alone. Together with DUALIS MedTech GmbH, the Fraunhofer EMFT is working on a new artificial sphincter technology, which allows a combination of diagnostics and therapy (theranostics).

© Fraunhofer EMFT / Bernd Müller
Stainless steel micro pump of Fraunhofer EMFT.

As with passive systems, the sphincter function is realized by opening and compressing the urethra using a fluid-filled cuff.

In contrast to traditional methods, the quantity of hydraulic fluid in the cuff – and thus the closure function – is not controlled manually, but by the interaction of active microelectronic components: A micropump is responsible for emptying, a microvalve for filling the cuff. Both components are currently being developed at Fraunhofer EMFT. The actuators meet essential requirements such as high flow rates, fast reactivity, small size and low energy consumption. The new developments must be both corrosion-resistant and MRI-capable.

The integration of two pressure sensors also ensures that the pressure is automatically readjusted when the threshold values in the cuff and / or reservoir are exceeded – for example, at unforeseen stresses such as coughing or laughing – so that continence is ensured at all times. Using a remote control, the attending physician can adjust the tissue-defying normal pressure at any time without surgery. The patient can also manually adjustthe cuff pressure (for example, by predetermined modes such as sports or night mode).

The development is supported by the Bavarian Research Foundation. At the Compamed exhibition (hall 8a, booth K14), Fraunhofer EMFT is showing the current development status of the sphincter system.