The use of reliable interconnect technology enables minimally invasive disposable electronic probes to be utilized in a greater number of procedures and harsher environments. The following article examines this technology and how it can provide additional benefits to a complete connector system.

By Tom Kannally

    Custom interconnect solution for minimally invasive electronic probes
  • System components
  • Disposable advantages
  • Potential applications
  • Selecting a vendor
Connecting a disposable minimally invasive electronic probe to its system’s generator requires that the interconnect maintains unquestioned reliability and facilitates many reconnections. The requirements include a high number of mating cycles at the generator connection, high reliability, and easy, fail-safe connections. The reliability of the interconnect must assure the accuracy of the procedure.

To more accurately and quickly diagnose, as well as match initial treatment to the results of that diagnosis, medical trends dictate less invasive procedures, disposable probes, embedded electronics, high cycle life, and sterilization. Applications include electrophysiology and intravascular ultrasound catheters, endoscopes, and other such probes, which are used in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiac arrhythmias, varicose veins, enlarged prostates, malignancies, blocked arteries, and a large variety of other medical issues. These procedures are highly accurate and minimally invasive and as such, reduce the time necessary for the patient to recover from more invasive diagnostic procedures, resulting in accelerated treatment following the diagnosis.

Reusable catheters and probes need to be sterilized (often autoclaving) after each use and be robustly designed to withstand that sterilization. The cost of the sterilization process, the potential for errors, and the resultant liability are major concerns with these procedures. The use of disposable electronic probes solves a variety of these concerns. To be cost-competitive, the disposable electronic probes must be less expensive than multiuse probes. But by being totally new for each use, the probes assure reliability and sterility, preventing the possibility of transferring pathogens from one patient to the next.

A typical system would include the disposable probe itself, a connecting cable, and the system generator. To connect the whole arrangement, an interconnect scheme that meets all of the design requirements for the probes themselves, as well as facilitates reconnection to each new disposable probe, must be used. The probe connector is used once, the connecting cable (which does not contact the patient, but traverses the sterile and non-sterile fields in the operating room) might be used a number of times and require sterilization (including autoclaving) between uses, and the system connector would require many thousands of mating cycles. Additionally, embedded electronics are often required in either the disposable end or the connecting cable.

For the disposable electronic probe, one example is the Hypertronics interconnect. This unit includes a single-use connector mated to a sterilizable cable which is designed for multiple mating cycles, incorporating embedded electronics into the disposable connector or cable to meet customer requirements.

On the system generator end, the connector can withstand up to 100,000 mating cycles. To deliver this requirement, these connectors incorporate the Hypertac contact system, with its very low contact resistance (<8 milliohms for small signal contacts), which has been used for many years in a variety of critical medical applications.

Medical device design engineers often want single-vendor sourcing, completed custom requirements, assured delivery, maintained reliability, and reduced costs. They should seek a vendor who delivers these key requirements for the interconnect to the disposable probe, enabling them to focus their valuable, limited resources on other areas of the system design. The interconnects reduce development time and simplify the design of new disposable electronic probes. Moreover, the interconnect solution must meet the needs of the medical industry as it evolves towards more disposability, embedded electronics, and, of course, high reliability.By using key design elements and materials for these applications, it is possible to cost-effectively design the interconnect system for single-use applications. These specific designs eliminate the requirement for probe re-sterilization, remove mismating concerns, facilitate customization, and reduce overall costs.

While there are a number of vendors who offer custom interconnects, cable assemblies, and embedded electronics, medical device manufacturers demand high reliability and require a company that can provide it. To ensure this, connector manufacturers committed to servicing this market are working with the disposable probe vendors and system generator manufacturers to deliver overall system requirements. The resulting interconnect systems assure the medical community that disposable electronic probes can be connected with excellent accuracy and reliability.
For additional information on the technologies and products discussed in this article, go to

Tom Kannally is the medical industry manager at Hypertronics Corp., 16 Brent Dr., Hudson, MA 01749, where he focuses on the electronic interconnection requirements for the medical device market. He has over 20 years of experience in the connector industry, 19 of those years spent in varying capacities at Hypertronics. Tom has contributed to the design of several new connectors for use in critical medical applications. He can be reached at 978-568-0451 or