CLiKX for quick, effective treatment of glue ear
Standing from left: Research Associate Gan Chee Wee, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine; Research Fellow Dr Liang Wenyu, NUS Engineering, and PhD student Ng Cailin, NUS Graduate School of Integrative Sciences and Engineering. Seated from left: Adjunct Assoc Prof Lynne Lim and Assoc Prof Tan Kok Kiong.
A team led by Professor Tan Kok Kiong from the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, together with Dr Lynne Lim, an Adjunct Associate Professor with the Department of Otolaryngology at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and Senior Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) Consultant at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, has developed CLiKX – a palm-size device for the treatment of Otitis Media with Effusion (OME), or ‘glue ear’, which is the leading cause of hearing loss among children worldwide. The device, which is sensor-guided and easy to use, could significantly improve current surgical treatment of OME.
Patients with OME have their middle ear filled with fluid instead of air. If left untreated, patients may suffer hearing impairment, middle ear bone erosion or a tumour, and brain infection. The condition affects 709 million people annually across the globe, with about 90 percent being children. In Singapore, an estimated 84,000 children suffer from ‘glue ear’ yearly. OME has shown to cause delays in the speech, language and academic abilities of young children.
“The first line therapy for OME is usually the prescription of antibiotics. But sometimes, the antibiotics may not be effective against OME. For patients with three or more episodes of OME within a year, some with craniofacial predispositions, or those who are concerned about building resistance to long-term use of antibiotics, grommet tube placement surgery is currently the gold standard of care. A grommet is a very small tube that is inserted into the patient’s eardrum during surgery to help drain away fluid in the middle ear. Each procedure takes about 30 minutes to complete,” explained Dr Lim.
is an easy-to-use handheld palm-size device that significantly improves current surgical treatment of Otitis Media with Effusion (OME) or ‘glue ear’.
Presently, the grommet tube placement surgery is carried out in an operating theatre with the use of general anesthetic, which is a major concern for parents who worry about its potential negative impact on brain development in young children. The palm-sized CLiKX can insert the grommet tube into a patient’s ear quickly and safely using a sensor-controlled automation process. This minimises the contact time with the patient’s eardrum, and prevents over-deformation and excessive pressure, hence reducing discomfort and trauma for the patient.
Assoc Prof Tan elaborated, “CLiKX can potentially shift the current standard surgical procedures for OME. With this pistol-like applicator, the grommet tube can be easily inserted into a patient’s ear within a single click. In less than a second, the procedure is done. This simple procedure has the potential to be administered in a doctor’s consultation room under local anesthesia, or out of the operating theatre under intravenous conscious sedation without general anesthesia. Preoperative preparation and postoperative recovery time for patients are significantly reduced. At the same time, risks of general anesthesia are avoided. We expect costs, manpower, and resources to be lowered substantially, and this, in turn, would be welcomed by patients, healthcare institutions, and insurers.”
The 185-gram CLiKX also works well with a range of commercially available grommets and does not require any custom-made grommet tubes. The procedure using CLiKX requires only light or moderate sedation or local anesthetic.
Assoc Prof Tan said, “The motivation behind the development of CLiKX is to significantly reduce the recovery time and treatment cost for patients. By streamlining the manpower and resources required for surgical treatment of OME, healthcare resources could be deployed more efficiently for other treatments and procedures in hospitals.” The small battery-powered device could potentially make grommet-placing surgeries more accessible for patients in underdeveloped areas where proper healthcare infrastructure is not always available.
Building on the promising results from the earlier phases of the project, the team aims to conduct the first-in-man trial in Singapore in 2018 and launch the device in the market by 2020.