The end for blood transfusions? The Nottinghamshire invention that ‘cleans’ blood

By PMBlackburn  |  Posted: April 23, 2014

Surgeons at workSurgeons at work- stock image
 Comments (6)PIONEERING technology developed by a Nottinghamshire company has been used to help a religious patient have a life-changing operation.Julie Penoyer cannot accept transfusions due to her Jehovah’s Witness beliefs, so doctors used Hemosep – a blood-recycling device which collects blood spilt during an operation, filters it and returns it to the patient – during her treatment.The 50-year-old underwent complex open heart surgery to repair damage to one of the main blood vessels in her heart and would have faced a difficult choice between compromising her religious beliefs or facing a significant loss of blood.

Her op was part of the machine’s first ever UK trials at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and she said she had found it difficult to breathe, talk or exercise before it.

“Pretty much as soon as I woke up I noticed the difference,” she added.

“Two weeks after I was home I was eating normally again. People tell me they can’t believe I’ve recently had heart surgery.”

Mrs Penoyer has now made a full recovery following the surgery, which would normally have required transfusions of up to seven units of blood.

Mrs Penoyer’s husband, Eric, said: “Her recovery has been amazing. I like the simplicity of the Hemosep machine. It’s a huge advancement and because it is simple to use, would be of great use in other areas of the world.”

Hemosep was developed by Kirkby in Ashfield-based Brightwake Ltd in collaboration with Professor Terry Gourlay of Strathclyde University.

And the company’s heritage in Nottingham’s Lace Market helped in development as a key part of the equipment is filters with microscopic meshes.

The filters make Hemosep the only machine in the world capable of salvaging tiny platelets which help blood to clot. Returning these cells to the body lowers the risk of bleeding after an operation.

The company is aiming for the equipment to be available for all patients though as it could avoid post-operative complications, reduce reliance on blood banks and potentially save the NHS £10 million a year, according to estimates.

The technology could also cut down adverse reactions to blood transfusions.

Brightwake’s managing director Steve Cotton said: “We send our very best wishes to Mrs Penoyer. Her case shows why we believe Hemosep offers huge opportunities for surgical teams and their patients, all over the world.

“We are extremely proud of Hemosep and excited by its potential to help people whose particular religious beliefs mean that they cannot receive donated blood, even if they experience severe blood loss.”

The technology’s benefits have been welcomed by clinicians at Nottingham University Hospitals.

The Trust’s deputy chief perfusionist in cardiac surgery John Campbell said: “It’s an extremely useful tool. By using it in this extreme case we have identified other potential areas where it could be used, such as obstetrics and major trauma.

“When donated blood is transfused, the body has to work to clean it and there is no immediate way of knowing the quality of the red cells or any potential side effects. If it’s your own blood there are none of those issues. Patients who have transfusions are reported to have a longer stay in intensive care, compared to those who don’t.”

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