Solar-Powered Sterile Box Offers Safer Surgeries

Posted: Mar 24 2016, 7:40am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

Solar-Powered Sterile Box Offers Safer Surgeries
Rice University Professor Douglas Schuler holds a steam-activated autoclave used to sterilize surgical instruments in the Sterile Box developed at Rice for use in low-resource settings. Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University
  • Solar-Powered Box sterilizes Surgical Instruments

A solar-powered box has been invented which is used to sterilize surgical instruments such as scalpels and scissors.

A sterilization box has been created by Rice University students and mentors. It gets rid of germs from surgical instruments. The erasure is 100%. Thus patients who are operated upon throughout the globe will not face any infections due to dirty surgical tools.

It consists of a 20 foot steel shipping container. All the surgical instruments are placed inside it. A water complex is present for decontamination purposes. Also a solar-powered autoclave shoots plumes of steam for sterilization purposes.

Autoclaves are standard equipment in modern hospitals. However, they are absent yet crucial in areas of relative poverty. An article about this invention was published in the journal PLoS ONE.

The item worked perfectly well over 61 trials. Almost a third of patients who undergo surgery in poverty-afflicted areas are likely to suffer from infectious illnesses post-surgery.

This rate is nine times higher than in developed nations where the standard of living is satisfactory. The infections are often due to the usage of surgical instruments that carry tiny traces of bacteria left over from previous surgeries.

Such infections can lead to complications and lengthy hospital stays. Many times death is the end result. The sterilization of surgical equipment via sunlight has been a project that was a long time in the making.

The first time around a mobile A frame solar thermal device was employed to get the job done. A more complete and complex autoclave was designed later on.

"Infection control in the surgical suite really is a big challenge in the developing world," said Oden, who has seen the challenges firsthand while traveling as part of the Rice 360?: Institute for Global Health.

"I was shocked to learn how many surgeries end up with patients developing some manner of infection."

She said the fact that the Sterile Box is a complete drop-in system is significant.

"The box looks at the problem from a complete system level and makes it easy to implement," she said. "It's not just a simple device to clean and sterilize the tools, but a way to manage the process."

"We tried to really think hard about social context," Schuler said. "We laid out the elements to minimize human error and water and energy requirements to the extent that we can. I really like that about our design."

In small towns and countryside settings, the resources are not adequate for standard run-of-the-mill autoclaves to function. Therefore, this new sterile box will come in handy there. Surgical infections are so common that the tackling of the issue goes without saying.

The sterile box is a significant invention that will solve many of the complications of major surgery in the future. It is not just a system but a whole way of processing surgical instruments so they end up squeaky clean and ready to be applied in a surgical setting.

Everything was carefully examined before the design and manufacture of the sterile box was implemented. Nothing was left to chance. Solar panels, electric storage and water supply from two tanks form a part of the system.

The technical details of the sterile box need a booklet for their description. Suffice it to say that several features went into the construction and makeup of the sterile box.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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