Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Squirming intubation tubes

Homing device for intubation
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Intubation is frequently problematic due to hazards such as perforating the trachea or oesophagus and penetrating the mediastinum or simply inserting it into the wrong organ. You also sometimes need to look where you're going. As a result, people just die anyway while waiting for an experienced worker to turn up. Same problems with cannulae of course, or injections for that matter.
My answer is twofold: squirming tubes which home in on the appropriate orifice or organ. So, the tube is placed, say, in the patient's mouth, then proceeds to hump itself forward in search of something distinctive in the trachea, stomach or oesophagus, for example gastric acid in the stomach, cilia in the trachea or salivary amylase in the oesophagus. Similarly, an IV cannula might look for deoxygenated haemoglobin and so on. It then squirms around until it's in place. Therefore, no special skills are necessary and almost anyone can intubate a patient in emergencies or just anyway.
Can also be applied to hypodermic needles to avoid accidental intramuscular or intravenous injections, or to an enema or colonoscopy tube to avoid sticking it in the wrong end.
nineteenthly, Jul 20 2009

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       disturbing[+]
pertinax, Jul 20 2009
  

       How are these tubes powered?   

       I recently read about the development of cochlear implants, where one of the difficulties of inserting electrode arrays was overcome by making the array stiffness variable (more flexible at the tip, allowing it to follow the curved cochlea without fear of perforation.)   

       Perhaps this approach might work for the tubes you describe.
csea, Jul 20 2009
  

       "Don't intube me bro!"
zen_tom, Jul 20 2009
  

       They are powered hydraulically, with maybe a very small electric current for the sensor. This is already done with endoscopy tubes and with tracheal tubes, which have inflatable cuffs to keep them in place. These would have a similar mechanism.
nineteenthly, Jul 20 2009
  

       I'd like to see this on youtube.
po, Jul 20 2009
  

       OK, i get the humour but i might actually try to do that!
nineteenthly, Jul 20 2009
  

       // an enema or colonoscopy tube //   

       Prior art ! The Reticulians already use this technology for their Anal probes (You keep that damned thing AWAY from us, you hear ?}
8th of 7, Jul 20 2009
  

       Ah, Zeta Reticuli! If something is baked by aliens, does it then count as baked here too? If so, what if we live in an infinite universe? Doesn't that then imply that somewhere out there there's a Planet Halfbakery, where everyone travels in Hullaballoons, has really confusing tailgates and drives over custard-filled speed bumps? In fact...
nineteenthly, Jul 22 2009
  

       // Can also be applied to hypodermic needles to avoid accidental intramuscular or intravenous injections //   

       What exactly is the proposed mechanism of a squirming needle? Surely you're familiar with the microscopic appearance of a regular metal needle after it's been used?   

       // If something is baked by aliens, does it then count as baked here too? //   

       Yes, according to those who insist (against common sense and relativity of simultaneity) that only the first inventor in the universe of a given invention can be considered the 'inventor' of it, and that each invention can have at most one instance of being invented.
notexactly, Jul 22 2019
  
      
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