Getting a yearly flu shot or other vaccinations, while generally considered a wise health move, used to be painful or uncomfortable.

Now, a breakthrough device from University of New Hampshire researchers aims to ensure that such shots are as effective – and painless — as possible.

UNH nursing and electrical engineering faculty have crossed departmental lines to create a “smart” training syringe that will help nurses and other health care professionals learn how to give the most effective intramuscular injections by providing real-time feedback. It’s the first device of its type ever created.

We want to be sure people are getting the medicine in the muscle where it’s going to work. This would be a way to ensure that people are getting immunized.” – Paula McWilliam assistant professor

She is collaborating with professor John LaCourse, chair of the department of electrical and computer engineering. Tyler Rideout, a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering and several undergraduates to achieve this.

The project, which has produced a prototype training syringe, has its origins when McWilliam realized the dearth of both standardized procedures for giving intramuscular (IM) injections and teaching tools for helping new nurses learn to give injections.

Although injections are common – 16 billion are given per year – and considered a basic skill, if not given properly.

Rideout developed a graphical user interface (GUI) that plots users’ force, trajectory, angle and pressure data on a computer screen within a range of best-practice data. He recently published his work in the publication of the 2011 Northeast Bioengineering Conference, at which he also presented the project.

Surprisingly, best-practice data for giving injections does not exist; now that the device has been built, the researchers are pursuing agreed-upon standards for delivering IM injections.

LaCourse and McWilliam are working with UNH’s office for research partnerships and commercialization, which has filed a patent application for their prototype. They are also looking for a commercial partner who could take their prototype to the market.

This is a great example of the exceptional research coming out of UNH, and we’re excited about the commercial potential for the technology.”- Maria Emanuel senior licensing manager