MIT engineering students have been working on a cheap negative pressure wound management device that has already proved useful in post-earthquake Haiti. The manually operated pump costs about $3 to manufacture, but relies on a perfect wound seal to ensure low pressure inside, which probably can only be delivered by an expensive tegaderm-like dressing.
The Haitian patients who were treated with the device were pleased with how it worked. While the team didn’t have time to conduct long-term evaluations, Zurovcik [Danielle Zurovcik, graduate engineering student at MIT] says, "In the short term, we systematically evaluated the wounds, and were able to verify that negative-pressure therapy was being applied and the healing process was underway."
The trip to Haiti was led by Dr. Robert Riviello of the Division of Trauma, Burn and Surgical Critical Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Riviello estimates that between 50 million and 60 million people in low-income countries suffer from acute and chronic wounds, and a large number of them would benefit from negative-pressure wound therapy. He says the device "has the potential to be a great benefit to patients around the world" once a few technical hurdles are cleared.
"Our biggest challenge at the moment is ensuring a reliably intact seal on human skin [that can be] easily applied," Riviello says. "If we can resolve this, then I think there is enormous potential."
Zurovcik notes that an improved version of the device — one that maintains a more constant pressure and is smaller and so easier to conceal when being worn for days — has been developed and is being manufactured now.
Press release: In The World: Better wound treatment for all