A transfusion machine that takes a person’s blood lost during an operation, filters it, and then puts it back into the body has been improved through the use of 3D printing.
The HemoSep autotransfusion machine has been designed by a company called Brightwake in order to reduce the need for blood transfusions in trauma situations and to help save people who cannot for religious reasons receive donated blood — such as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Wired.co.uk first covered the HemoSep back in August 2012, when it had just received approval to be sold in Europe and Canada. It was engineered in Glasgow’s University of Strathclyde and uses a chemical sponge and mechanical agitator to filter the collected blood from a surgical site or that trained from a heart-lung machine after surgery. The red blood cells are separated out and collected in a blood bag before being returned to the patient intravenously. HemosSep has been designed to be very compact and suitable for quick use in trauma situations.
Since then, Brightwake has been working with a Stratasys 1200es 3D printer in order to reduce the cost of the machine. This has reduced the cost of prototyping by 96 percent. The 3D printer was used to develop all of the plastic components, including the main filtration and cooling systems as well as the main case and the tray for holding the device. “We were able to develop components very quickly using 3D printing and try designs that were quite different,” Steve Cotton, Director of Research and Development at Brightwake, told Wired.co.uk.
“The biggest challenge was making sure we didn’t design something which could be printed and then not moved onto injection moulding later for mass production,” he added.
The system has been trialled on 100 patients during open heart surgery procedures at Kirikkale University Hospital in Turkey, where the need for donor transfusions was significantly decreased, as were instances of post-surgery inflammatory reactions that can take pale with transfusions.
Further trials are now taking place in the UK. One of the first patients to benefit from the new version of the HemoSep device is a 50-year-old patient called Julie Penoyer who is a Jehovah’s Witness and as such requested not to receive donated blood. However, she was able to accept her own blood, recycled through HemoSep.
Cotton said: “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.”
Brightwake plans to continue to use 3D printing to further develop the device. “As a business we have also developed five more patented medical devices using this technology,” Cotton explains. This includes a prostate cancer diagnostic tool and a fat separation device that can be used for cosmetic procedures. The next move is to invest in metal printers to allow for the development of titanium implanted devices.