Pleural is a device that lets people with chronic respiratory conditions clear mucus from their lungs.

Team : Fergus Laidlaw, Yihan Dong, Daniel Hale, William Eliot

3.9m people in the UK suffer from chronic excess mucus in their lungs
Excessive mucus is a key symptom of many chronic lung conditions, causing debilitating breathlessness, life-threatening infections and increased exacerbations. Mucus build-up can lead to hospitalisations when unmanaged - patients survive only 3-4 hospitalisations on average. There is little care available for most people with severe chronic mucus buildup.
By empowering users to perform chest physiotherapy autonomously, pleural provides immediate relief from breathlessness whilst reducing the risk of infection. Intelligent machine learning provides users with personalised therapy and feedback, combatting anxiety and uncertainty surrounding their lung condition.
Chest physiotherapy can help people clear their lungs, preventing exacerbations and hospitalisations

Pleural is the first smart airway clearance device for mucus related respiratory conditions that empowers users to perform chest physiotherapy autonomously, providing them with immediate relief from breathlessness whilst reducing the risk of infection. Intelligent machine learning provides users with personalised therapy to clear their airways, and to clear up any uncertainty towards the progression of their lung condition.

How it works

We developed a handheld device that performs Chest Physiotherapy (CPT) based on clinically proven techniques including external percussion and vibration of the chest to aid mucus clearance. While performing therapy, we wanted our device to give personalised feedback to the user through intelligent analysis of mucus levels in the lungs. We developed technology to build a profile of each user’s unique lungs, to identify areas for targeted treatment. The device guides the user to carry out comprehensive chest physiotherapy with confidence in the comfort of their own home.

Design Process

From the outset Pleural deployed a human centred design process, conducting deep research and engaging in co-design with people with lung conditions. We conducted iterative experiments across various disciplines ranging from DIY synthetic mucus to real sheep lung testing, vibrator mechanisms, and machine learning network structures. This process generated a multitude of ideas, which were synthesized into card sorting kits, capturing essential user insights and expert interview quotes. These resources provided a valuable tool for gaining user feedback and directed Pleural towards novel, human-centred solutions.

Following exhibitions and awards, notably the James Dyson National award 2023, in which we presented Pleural to a wider audience, we have been gaining traction and feedback from more and more people affected by debilitating lung conditions. This project is ongoing so please reach out if you're interested in helping to develop it further, or feel this product would help you!

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