A huge breakthrough could drastically reduce surgical site infections in low-resource areas.
Infections are one of the biggest concerns for doctors performing surgeries outside of a sterilized hospital. According to a report from UPI, however, a new invention from researchers at Rice University could revolutionize surgery in the field as we know it.
The Sterile Box is a solar-powered machine that helps sterilize medical tools for reuse in unsterile locations. It fits into a standard 20-foot shipping container and can be set up almost anywhere in the world.
According to Maria Oden, the director of the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen at Rice University, “Infection control in the surgical suite really is a big challenge in the developing world. I was shocked to learn how many surgeries end up with patients developing some manner of infection.”
Previous efforts to reduce infection in rural and developing areas focused on singular devices that could sterilize individual tools, but the move to a portable sterilization facility may be the game-changer researchers were searching for.
The Sterile Box runs completely on solar power, reducing energy costs and allowing it to be set up just about anywhere. Oden says the box tackles the problem from a more complete perspective and makes preventing infections a relatively easy task. “It’s not just a simple device to clean and sterilize the tools, but a way to manage the process,” she said.
The Sterile Box is split up into four separate compartments – one for decontamination, one for preparation, one for sterilization, and one for drying and storage. Solar panels are mounted to the roof to provide energy, and water is supplied by a 55-gallon tank on the ground and a 50-gallon tank on the roof. The key component, a 750-watt hotplate, sterilizes the medical tools.
The box fared extremely well in the testing phase, successfully decontaminating and sterilizing instruments in 61 trials with a failure rate of zero percent.
A press release from Rice University describing the details of the study can be found here.