Living in the United States, access to electricity is something we take for granted. If you’re going to a hospital in the US, you never have to worry about the electricity cutting off for hours at a time without warning. Unfortunately, for many people in other parts of the world, electricity is limited and often very unreliable. To have brownouts and power spikes is a regular occurrence and happens often over the course of a day, which is why battery powered anesthesia machines are saving lives. This is a huge issue for hospitals in rural parts of the developing world. These power outages force surgeons to postpone and hold off on operations, which often costs patients their life. But battery powered anesthesia machines are changing all of that. A nonprofit medical device company, Gradian Health Systems, has developed a groundbreaking device called the Universal Anesthesia Machine, or UAM, which are battery powered anesthesia machines in which workers in countries such as Malawi, SIerra Leone, and Zambia can administer anesthesia without electricity. This device can be a huge factor in saving the lives of many patients around the world. “We knew that the need was insatiable, frankly, given the number of hospitals and the number of countries that experience these challenges,” said Erica Frenkel, cofounder and COO of Gradian Health Systems. “We have a pretty good shot here at making a big dent in what is otherwise a really challenging issue.” Besides usually requiring electricity, medical grade pure oxygen is also needed to deliver anesthesia to patients. In U.S. hospitals, pure oxygen is manufactured on-site, but in hospitals in the developing world, this is not possible. The UAM are not only battery powered anesthesia machines, but they also can solve the problem for hospitals needing pure oxygen. The machine uses an integrated oxygen concentrator, that allows the machine to generate its own oxygen. When cylinder, pipeline, or portable oxygen is available, the machine can use it, but the UAM automatically draws in room air as the “carrier gas” to create pure medical-grade oxygen suitable for delivering anesthesia. The Universal Anesthesia Machine can operate for up to six hours using a rechargeable energy, meaning doctors won’t have to postpone surgery if the electricity goes out, saving the lives of patients. Gradian’s mission is to not only train people how to use the machine, but also how to fix it. A power outage during surgery is something, as Americans, we are blessed to not have to worry about. These battery powered anesthesia machines can ease the minds of doctors operating on patients in developing countries. It will give them peace of mind knowing that if something goes wrong, there is a machine that will provide backup. To see Erica Frenkel’s TED talk on the Universal Anesthesia Machine, CLICK HERE.
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