The device, which projects a creepy green video image of a patient’s veins onto their skin, is about to go on trial in a US hospital. The idea is that it will help staff to pinpoint a suitable vein for an injection or a drip.

The device is aimed at preventing the discomfort and delay of botched attempts to pierce veins for injections and blood tests, and to cut the time it takes to set up potentially life-saving intravenous drips.

“To stick a vein properly you need to get it in exactly the right place,” says the device’s inventor, Herbert Zeman, a biomedical engineer at the University of Tennessee in Memphis. “If you hit it off-centre, it just rolls out of the way.”

Zeman will demonstrate the device this week at the Frontiers in Optics conference in Rochester, New York. The prototype of the system, which he calls a vein contrast enhancer (VCE), uses a near-infrared camera to capture a real-time video image of the patient’s veins, a PC to enhance the contrast of the image and a desktop video projector to display it on the skin in real time.

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