For the millions of Americans afraid of needles, help may be on the way. A new medical device now available in some hospitals and clinics can inject medicines without the jab of a needle. The device, called SonoPrep®, is being used to numb skin for painful procedures such as the insertion of catheters or intravenous tubing.
Traditionally, doctors numb skin by injecting a local anesthetic through a needle. This method can take some time and it hurts, whereas SonoPrep does the job painlessly in just five minutes.
SonoPrep works through ultrasound technology. Developed with NIH funding to Dr. Robert Langer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the device uses battery power to apply sound waves to skin for 15 seconds. This ultrasonic energy subtly rearranges the fat molecules in skin to create tiny channels that small amounts of liquid can flow through. The skin isn't harmed by the process, and within a day it returns to normal.
Langer has licensed the technology to a company, Sontra Medical Corp., that plans to test the system for various other medical uses, including vaccination. They are also trying to develop a device that measures blood sugar in people with diabetes and gives them just the right amount of insulin at the right time.