Health News

Low-tech — just what the doctor ordered

Medical equipment that can be manufactured at low cost, is simple to use and can be easily maintained will help extend surgery to the 5 billion people worldwide who currently cannot get access to it, say researchers.

Writing in the IEEE Journal of Translational Engineering in Health and Medicine, they argue that surgical technology is often developed for well-resourced healthcare systems — and is of little or no use in poorer settings where hospitals lack sophisticated support infrastructure or appropriately trained staff.

Without access to medical equipment they can use, hospitals and clinics in low-to-middle income countries cannot offer surgical treatment to nine out of ten patients.

An international research team led by the University of Leeds is calling for a focus on creating medical devices specifically for use in low-to-middle income countries. They have pioneered a development approach based on “participatory design,” where the users of the technology are closely involved in its design — and where functionality of the device is pared back to key essentials.

To demonstrate their approach, the researchers describe how they designed a simplified surgical tool for performing laparoscopic — or keyhole surgery — in low resource settings. The result is that laparoscopic surgery can now be carried out in clinics and hospitals where it was not possible before.

Dr Pete Culmer, Associate Professor in Healthcare Technologies at Leeds, who supervised the research, said: “Laparoscopic surgery has benefits for patients. People recover more quickly, and the risks of cross infection are lower.

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