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Change the world


Nelson Mandela University advanced engineering design group students have developed an early-detection device to help with the prevention of unnecessary blood loss during surgeries and other medical procedures.

The portable device called Blood Alert is attached to a blood collection cylinder during surgeries to monitor the amount of blood a patient loses.

The students, Jode Fourie and Brian Jack, have created two prototypes of the device for use at Livingstone Hospital.

Acting as an extra pair of eyes in theatre, the device can be programmed to alert anaesthetists when a patient’s blood has reached a concerning amount as indicated on the cylinder.

This, anaesthetist Dr Marne Page said, would help save the lives of patients who could not tolerate certain amounts of blood loss, as surgeons and other staff often had to divide their attention between several things at a time.

“Bleeding, especially in obstetrics, is a major cause of maternal and foetal death in SA.

“This system lets us know when we’ve reached our limit in operations.

“For some patients who don’t have a lot of red blood cells and can’t tolerate much blood loss, we want to know when it gets to a point where they should not lose any more blood.

“When the device beeps, we look at [several factors] and determine if the patient is still losing blood at that point, what the patient’s baseline is and whether we need to order more blood,” Page said.

Livingstone Hospital received the two devices a week ago and the hospital will do a study on them to determine their impact. However, Page said, he was confident the concept would contribute to saving lives on the table.

Besides theatre, the devices could also be used in casualty on patients who needed certain amounts of their blood drained, he said.

He said this usually needed to be manually monitored by a nurse but the device would come in handy in short-staffed hospitals.

Fourie said they created Blood Alert over a six-week period after Page and Dr Lorenzo Boretti reached out to them with the idea.

This follows a previous project the students created for the hospital to help bolster its fight against Covid-19.

Fourie and Jack said they created the device with the intention for it to be easy to use and clean, adjustable, affordable and easy to recreate.

“We’ve already started making other changes and adding features to improve the device,” Fourie said.

Jack said while they were confident in the device, there was always room for improvement when designing.

“One of the improvements we’re making on Blood Alert is adding an LED to indicate when it’s on. We’re also looking at putting a voltage sign on the cap where the battery is enclosed and maybe even decreasing the circuit inside to make the size of the band even smaller,” he said.

Page said they planned to publish a detailed journal article on the invention and study that would be done on it.

He said the article would contain a 3D design of the device to allow other anaesthetists to build it.

“This is entirely a non-profit [idea] for all of us. It’s simply to try to make a difference.

“It’s a very simple design and parts are easy to find and cheap,” he said.

This article appeared in The Herald (South Africa) on 27 April 2022 written by Zamandulo Malonde

From left to right: Jode Fourie, Dr Lorenzo Boretti, Wian van Aswegen & Brian Jack


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