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Neosid: Miniaturised RFID transponders meet requirements for medical instruments and equipment

Articles | By Neosid Pemetzrieder | 21 April 2015
Exemplary design concept for the identification of a surgical instrument using miniaturised RFID transponders at a size of 2.6 x 2.4 mm. Exemplary design concept for the identification of a surgical instrument using miniaturised RFID transponders at a size of 2.6 x 2.4 mm. Photo: Neosid

Continuous Traceability is only given with RFID

RFID Transponders meet today’s technological requirements for integration in medical instruments. They are already proven and tested when integrated within surgical instruments to realise complete tracking solutions. Another application is the authentication of applicators for medical devices using RFID technology, as Yilmaz Benzer and Eugen Swoboda, Neosid explain in an interview with “RFID im Blick”. “The usability and reliability of RFID technology has been demonstrated in the area of medical technology. The technology has shown that it works reliably, especially in the autoclaving process.”

Yilmaz Benzer, Sales Manager, and Eugen Swoboda, Development Manager, Neosid, in an interview with “RFID im Blick”

Traceability for surgical instruments by integrated transponder

There are several good reasons for using RFID technology in the tracking of surgical instruments. It has significant advantages over barcodes or Data Matrix code, as Yilmaz Benzer, Sales Manager at Neosid, the manufacturer of miniaturised transponders: “The integration of RFID tags enables the continuous tracking of instruments over the entire logistics suppy chain. This starts in the operating room and preparation area and follows through to the follow-up after surgery, such as washing, sterilisation and upstream processes such as the cleaning and sharpening of tools, as well as the reliable detection of tools in patient areas. “This traceability solution for surgical instruments with embedded RFID transponders has been used for two years at an instrument manufacturer for which Neosid developed application-specific transponders.

Validated by tests: the tags survive up to 2,000 autoclaving cycles without damage

“Firstly, the technical advantages of the transponders are their small size. Secondly, the RFID tags meet the requirements for autoclaving processes. Tests have established that transponders withstand the pressure of three bar at temperatures of 136 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes without damage in more than 2,000 autoclaving cycles,” explains Head of Development Eugen Swoboda. This number of cycles is essential for manufacturers because the instruments can be in use in hospitals from between five to ten years.

Different ways of integration into surgical instruments

There are various possibilities for the integration of RFID tags into surgical instruments, and different manufacturers deal with this differently. The RFID tag can either be integrated directly in the instrument or integrated in a housing connected to the instrument.

“The selected option depends on the tasks and goals required from the application, for example, whether recording takes place as a single readout or as a bulk reading,” says Yilmaz Benzer. He explains: “If a miniaturised transponder is inserted directly into the instrument, the reading range is reduced. This has implications for the bulk readability. In addition, any change always involves the question of warranty.” To integrate an RFID tag directly into an instrument, it has to observe the biological and chemical requirements of the hospital environment. The transponder must be protected so that no bacteria can survive.

Use in Sterilisation Processes

An important point is to always involve the user when installing the tag in the instrument,” says Eugen Swoboda. “We support the user by recommending the optimal placement of the RFID tag on the instrument and configure the reader in terms of reading sensitivity. The reading accuracy is affected by the constellation of the instrument assignment and the reader technology. Standard antennas don’t always achieve the best results. “Therefore, the company Neosid works closely together with reading device manufacturers as well as chip manufacturers. Even the memory technology which is used is crucial. Since medical implants are exposed to Gamma radiation during the sterilisation process, the standard EEPROM memory technology is not suitable because the tags do not survive the radiation without losing data. “That’s why we use a memory technology that is resistant to Gamma radiation. The use of RFID tags is already tested for labelling implants,” says Swoboda.

LF, HF or UHF – which frequency is best suited for use within metal?

“Studies that we have conducted with LF technology have shown significant advantages in favour of HF: besides the size of the HF tags to be implemented, it is also their established international standard. The bulk reading rate is significantly higher with HF than with LF. In addition, HF tags can be read with NFCenabled smartphones. We are technically prepared, however, to support both frequencies and, when it comes to technological changes, also to offer appropriate solutions,” says Yilmaz Benzer. To achieve higher reading ranges within metal environments, an extended inlay can be used, and Neosid have developed a customised transponder of this type. It cannot yet be confirmed whether UHF tags can withstand around 2,000 cycles in the autoclave, according to Benzer.

Authentication of applicators using RFID

Another application for RFID is its integration within auxiliary tools and applicators, such as those used for shock wave therapy. With tags integrated within the applicators, it is possible to track when interchangeable elements need disposing of and replacing according to the number of cycles specified by the manufacturer. This is the only way of ensuring that a device retains its ability to function. It can be clearly verified that a tool that is intended for single use has been replaced. “RFID is profitable even when an instrument is only used once,” says Benzer: “not only for high-value technology components, but most importantly because the success of the therapy can be ensured.”

The technology is ready – Now the manufacturers need to take action

The advantages of RFID technology are established for the experts – and current transponders meet all the technical requirements. “We have noticed the efforts that manufacturers are making to use RFID technology in place of barcodes and data matrix codes – and one of the important triggers for this is the legal marking obligation.” And moving from using barcodes to RFID is not such a big change, according to hospital experts. “If there is an existing barcode system in place, the change to RFID can be made fairly smoothly.”

Last modified on Thursday, 23 April 2015 08:52
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