Solar-Powered Sterile Box Brings Safer Surgeries To Developing Countries


Lack of energy and other basic necessities of life in the developing countries cause many problems for the inhabitants. And one of the major problems leading hundreds of untimely deaths is the grave lack of healthcare facilities. In some areas, even the availability of first aid kits is a long shot and in the majority of them, lack of safe surgical instruments cause many complications and surgical-site infections. To put things in context, incidents like infection related deaths are about nine times higher in developing countries than in the developed ones.

Contaminated medical instruments bearing traces of hazardous biological materials and microorganisms from previous patients are used due to negligence or lack of facilities to sterilise them and make them safe. Unreliable power sources, lack of awareness and care both from the patient and the doctors and insufficient sterilisation quality control adds to the misery.

Pic Credits: techtimes
Pic Credits: techtimes

Rice Professor Maria Oden, director of the university’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen said “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.”

In comes the Sterile Box, which is a solar-powered sterilisation kit designed to mitigate the crisis. The box is more of a container, equipped with a low-power mobile facility which built into a 20-foot steel shipping container. The container houses all the required equipment to prepare surgical instruments, and they can also be sterilised on the spot. The facility is mobile so that it can be set up anywhere.

Now to tackle the problem of providing power, it is done using an ingenious system of harnessing solar power using panels on the roof while the tanks on the ground and roof supply water. An autoclave which can be heated with a specially designed hotplate is used to sterilise the used medical equipment.

Pic Credits: thespdnetwork
Pic Credits: thespdnetwork

Oden and colleagues wrote in their study  published in PLOS One on Wednesday, March 23, “The sterile processing unit, dubbed ‘the sterile box,’ is a full suite capable of handling instruments from the moment they leave the operating room to the point they are sterile and ready to be reused for the next surgery”

They also iterated on the fact that the sterile processing unit is self-sufficient, and can harness power and water for itself. It also is capable of taking in the contaminated instruments and then decontaminating them, sterilising them via nonelectric steam sterilisers, and finally securing them in the inventory storage.

Last year, the team used their mobile sterilization facility to properly sterilize and decontaminate instruments in 61 trials. And this unit’s outstanding performance and scope can spell better health care and surgical facilities for the lesser privileged areas of the world.

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