Brain Drain

Negative Shunt Pump


Member profile details

Membership level
2020-2021 Team
Project Thumbnail Image
Team Name
Brain Drain
Project Title
Negative Shunt Pump
Design Challenge
Design a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) shunt component that can provide meaningful data to the neurosurgical team treating patients with increased intercranial pressure. Our modular component will be able to encourage CSF flow by instituting a negative pressure gradient to pull fluid to the shunt’s surrogate absorptive space. In addition, these components will be able accurately to track pressure changes over time to log trends, and detect sharp pressure increases and decreases within the patient. These components will need to complement the existing shunt structures and tubing, minimizing discomfort to the patient.
Design Summary
In America, there are currently over 1 million people suffering from hydrocephalus and over 300,000 suffering from idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH). While some of these cases can resolve without surgical intervention, many require the placement of a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) shunt system to drain the increased level of CSF that causes the symptoms of these diseases. These shunt symptoms operate on the basis of differential pressure— if pressure in the brain is high and low in the drainage site, CSF will drain out of the head until the pressures are equal. However, many patients are unable to clear fluid on account of their ICP being too low (as in the case of normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH)) or the drainage area pressure being too high. Using estimates from our sponsor, Dr. Curry, 5-10% of shunt recipients fall into this category of patients that are unable to effectively drain CSF. This leads to worse prognoses and continued monitoring and intervention, costing patients and hospital systems time and money in addition to decreased patient quality-of-life. Our device’s goal is to correct these shortcomings of the current treatment paradigm through the development and application of a device that generates negative pressure at the drainage site to encourage flow of CSF out of the brain and towards the drainage area.

Our solution is to create a device that adds on to existing shunt systems, and has the ability to actively create a negative pressure gradient by pumping CSF out of the shunt system. After creating a device prototype, the plan is to test the device on a test stand that has adjustable pressure input and output reservoirs. These input and output reservoirs act as proxies for the intracranial and peritoneal spaces and the pressures will be adjusted by moving the reservoirs up and down on stands. We are currently prototyping with a peristaltic pump and have successfully integrated pressure sensors, wireless charging, and Bluetooth transmission of data in our device thus far.

[Update 3/14/2021]: We have successfully designed and implemented version ones of our device's casing and PCB. So far this semester, we have also been able to completely integrate the pressure sensors, Bluetooth, peristaltic pump, and battery management module (with battery and wireless charging coil) with the PCB and have it fit into our casing. In the next few weeks we will be working of decreasing the size of the device and designing casings for our wireless charger and pressure sensor which will be implanted in the head.

[Update 5/5/2021]: We have made the device as small as the chosen components will allow. We have also printed all of our design casings in biocompatible UV resin as a proof-of-concept that our device can achieve biocompatibility with additional steps (in future iterations this can include special coatings to increase biocompatibility). As well, we are continuing to test our device for key specifications.
Texas Children's Hospital and Chester Koh
Sponsor Logo
  • Bioengineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
Faculty Advisor 1 - Name
Sabia Abidi
Faculty Advisor 1 - Department
  • BIOE
Faculty Advisor 2 - Name
Gary Woods
Faculty Advisor 2 - Department
  • ECE
Client First Name
Client Last Name
Client Company/Organization
Texas Children's Hospital

Team Members

Award(s) and Recognition
2021 Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams (DEBUT) Challenge Winner, (2nd place prize)

2021 Engineering Design Showcase, Woods Leazar Innovation Award for Excellence in Engineering (top prize at Rice Engineering Showcase)
Showcase VIDEO link
Showcase Slides (PDF format)

Member photo albums (2 Albums)

Contact us

Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen
Rice University

6100 Main Street MS 390 | Houston, Texas | 77005

Phone: 713.348.OEDK


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