NEWPORT NEWS—Extravasation is the accidental leakage of any liquid from a vein into the surrounding tissue, which can cause serious harm to the patient. Newport News-based ivWatch has been working on a sensor that will identify when an IV (intravenous) goes bad and alert doctors that a potential problem is occurring.
ivWatch was founded 12 years ago, but the research on the technology the company is based on started 20 years ago. The National Institute of Health provided three grants to a group of researchers to come up with a solution to the problem of extravasation and infiltration. In 2010, Gary Warren, CEO and president of ivWatch, was approached about commercializing what the researchers had been working on.
“They had been doing trials at the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Eastern Virginia Medical School, but they were having difficulties,” said Warren. “My background is in engineering. I was at NASA Langley for about fourteen years prior to this and I was in the commercial software space for a while. So, I ended up grabbing this product and bought the assets from the group, brought over some of the engineers, and we founded ivWatch in the beginning of 2011.”
According to Warren, IVs going bad is one of the top invasive medical problems existing around the globe right now. ivWatch has developed a sensor that goes next to the IV site on a patient where the needle or catheter is placed. If the drugs that are trying to go into the vein of the patient are leaking out and going into the surrounding tissue, it can cause chemical burns (in cases of chemotherapy delivery) or the patient just isn’t getting the medicine they need in the manner it needs to be delivered. When the ivWatch identifies that chemicals are in the tissue that shouldn’t be there, it signals a patient monitoring system that mounts on the IV pole and alerts the nurse or doctor that the IV is bad.
“It’s just incredible the amount of IVs that are given every year,” said Warren. “In the U.S., it’s probably 150 million. About 40 to 50 percent of those are at high risk and 23 percent of them go bad. What happens though is that hospitals, in order to save money, are moving some of these caustic drugs to cheaper IV peripheral IVs. So, five years ago, if you had cancer, for example, and were getting chemotherapy, you would get a more invasive line called a PICC line or a central line that goes on your neck or chest. But a lot of hospitals are now delivering chemotherapy through peripheral IVs. If those leak outside the vein, they cause an incredible amount of damage.”
The ivWatch product has actually been available for a while, but Warren admits it was a little clunky when they first started working with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to develop the initial product.
“During the pandemic, we introduced a cheaper and smaller sensor, so that has really been taking off in the market as market acceptance grows,” said Warren. “We’re already in three of the top children’s hospitals in the U.S. and we’re about to be in the fourth.”
The company announced in May that it is now also expanding into the United Kingdom and beyond. It’s a first step in providing a much- needed product to the global market.
“In the U.S., extravasation and infiltration issues are underreported,” said Warren. “It’s like it happens and people don’t really want to talk about it. In the European market, they have socialized medicine for the most part, and it’s more recognized. We’ve had a lot of luck in the Middle East region in selling products. With the UK coming out with basically a formalized program to combat injuries from this problem, it’s an easier draw into those markets.”
To handle sales of the ivWatch product outside of the U.S., the company hired Helen Stephens as vice president of sales for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). Stephens brings in a wealth of experience from her 30-year career, which includes bedside nursing and medical device sales at renowned companies.
“She was based out of Dubai,” said Warren. “I have known of Helen before we interviewed her for a job, but she was working for ICU Medical, which is well known in the vascular access space. She wanted to move back to London, we wanted out offices to be based out of London for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, so it worked out well for everyone. Since she has been on board, she’s been handling all the international inquiries coming in, so she’s handling Australia and New Zealand as well right now. She’s a rock star.”
While ivWatch products are poised to revolutionize IV issues globally, the impact will likely be well received here at home. ivWatch manufactures all of their products in Newport News.
“It’s kind of unique for a medical device company in the Tidewater Region,” said Warren. “Most of the time people contract out the manufacturing. But we do everything in house—research and development, manufacturing, and exporting to foreign countries.”
ivWatch is located at 700 Tech Center Parkway, Suite 300, in Newport News. For more information, visit its website.