“Historia est vitae magistra” or “History is the teacher of life”, a famous Latin phrase, seems to be a perfect introduction to start writing about the heart-lung machine project, brought to us by the BBC.
Fat droplets, known as microemboli, can develop in the blood while a patient is connected to a heart-lung machine. These droplets can become lodged in the small blood vessels in the brain, preventing blood flow and triggered small strokes known as transient ischaemic attacks. In severe cases this can lead to brain damage and death.
Microemboli are thought to be created when a surgeon uses suction to remove blood from the chest cavity, which is then returned to the bloodstream via the heart-lung machine.
Lead researcher Professor Terry Gourlay said: “Microemboli blockages are responsible for a significant proportion of people suffering memory loss, minor personality changes and other brain dysfunctions.
“Over half of all patients who have been on heart-lung machines show some of these signs, so this is not an insignificant problem.”
Working with colleagues from the University of Brighton, they developed a short section of tubing that can be fitted into the heart-lung machine.
As blood passes through the tube, the fat droplets are adsorbed on to the surface of the carbon particles, completely removing all traces before the blood returns to the body. The technique proved so effective that 100% of microemboli were removed with just a single passage of blood through the tubing. This is crucial , as any droplets that are returned to the body have the potential to cause great damage.
The technique could potentially be used in other forms of surgery, including liposuction and hip replacement operations.
Read more about this project…