Due to the high demand of blood products however, there’s always a shortage of blood for transfusions.
Even when it is available, several problems may result from the process e.g. transfused blood may be fatal instead of life-saving if it doesn’t match the recipient’s blood.
Perhaps the recently invented 3D printed device called Hemosep will solve many of these problems. This device, invented by Brightwake Institute, collects and recycles a patient’s own blood during surgeries, reducing or even eliminating the need for transfusions.
Starting in the traditional textile industry in Nottingham, Brightwake has over 35 years of experience in research and product development. It recently entered the medical field by producing a wound dressing for the UK’s National Institute of Health (NIH). However, it is their latest invention by the name of Hemosep that has brought them to headlines throughout the world.
During major surgeries, transfusions are necessary to replace the large amounts of blood lost during the operation.
The Hemosep makes use of this lost blood. It recovers the blood during open heart or major trauma surgeries with the help of its suction unit (check out our 3D Printed Heart Implants article).
Then it removes the liquid portion of the blood and concentrates and agitates the remaining blood cells and finally, it sends these cells back to the patient. The whole process, called ‘autotransfusion’, transfuses the patient with his own blood.
Steve Cotton, director of research and development at Brightwake, explains the invention in the following words:
“The Hemosep consists of a bag that uses chemical sponge technology and a mechanical agitator to concentrate blood sucked from a surgical site or drained from a heart-lung machine after surgery. The cells are then returned to the patient via blood transfusion. In a climate of blood shortage, this recycling methodology has the potential to be a game-changer within the medical industry, saving the National Health Service millions.”
By utilizing the patient’s own blood instead of someone else’s blood, Hemosep avoids the adverse reactions that are common with blood transfusions. Moreover, it eliminates the risk of transferring blood-borne infections from donors to recipients. It will also greatly help in overcoming the shortage of blood for transfusions. The various parts and working of Hemosep is shown in detail on Brightwake’s YouYube Channel
Better Hemosep Parts with 3D Printing
Although the Original Hemosep, approved for sale in August 2012, did not use any 3D printed parts, today, its prototypes are almost completely made through additive printing, using the Stratasys 1200es printer. Cotton explains this move from traditional manufacturing to 3D printing in the following words:
“Previously we had to outsource the production of these parts which took around three weeks per part. Now we’re 3D printing superior strength parts overnight, cutting our prototyping costs by 96% and saving more than £1,000 for each 3D printed model.“
Additionally, 3D printing manufactures these parts faster than traditional methods, saving a lot of time.
Perhaps, the shift to additive manufacturing was inevitable, since no other manufacturing method provides the required accuracy or flexibility to produce the complex Hemosep parts. Cotton adds:
“3D printing has not only enabled us to cut our own costs, it has also been crucial in actually getting a functional device to clinical trials. The ability to 3D print parts that look, feel and perform like the final product, on-the-fly, is the future of medical device manufacturing.“
Whether it’s a drug or a machine, the medical industry requires years of successful trials for the approval of every new product. The Hemosep is no different. Its Clinical Trials started with over a 100 open heart surgeries in Turkey which confirmed its potential to significantly reduce the need for blood transfusions during surgery. Further trials are now continuing in the UK.
One of these trials holds special significance since it broadens our view of what Hemosep can offer us. Julie Penoyer, a 50-year old heart patient in the UK, demanded not to receive donated blood products because of her religious beliefs.
The surgeons found Hemosep to be the only answer to her problem. During her surgery, her own blood was recycled and transferred back to her using Hemosep, saving her life and at the same time, preserving her religious beliefs. So, this device offers an alternative to all those who believe transfusions to be ethically or religiously wrong.
At the moment, Hemosep is being used only for heart surgeries. However, many surgeons believe that this device has the ability to completely revolutionize how all surgeries are performed, not just cardiac surgeries. Professor Serdar Gunaydin, the head of Cardiac Surgery at the University of Kirikkale, where clinical trials for Hemosep were performed summarizes its present benefits and future prospects in the following words:
“In the climate of national blood product shortages and concern for disease transmission and immunosuppression, every effort should be made to optimise blood recovery and reduce allogeneic blood usage. The Hemosep technology has produced impressive results, it is the easiest method we have ever used. We believe this new technology will be one of the essential components of the routine heart surgery in the near future. We even think this technique may be useful for blood preservation during transplantation, orthopedics and neurosurgery.“
So, we can look forward to this device being used in all major surgeries. Perhaps, the day is not far when there will be no need for blood transfusions during surgeries; the patient’s own blood will be used instead.
In the end, 3D printing is revolutionizing every field from art to medicine. This revolutionary blood recycling device from Brightwake clearly shows that what 3D printing brings to the Medical Industry. It tells us that our future won’t just be filled with better technologically, it will be a lot healthier too.
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