UBC team develops cheap surgical drill
Eighteen power drill covers are currently being used at a Uganda hospital as part of a pilot project. (THOMAS O'HARA, DRILLCOVER.COM)
Common power drills found in hardware stores are being used in medical surgery in an African country thanks to the work of some University of B.C. students.
Elise Huisman, a PhD candidate in rehabilitation sciences, said on Tuesday they developed the idea because real surgical drills are far beyond the budget of what hospitals in countries like Uganda can afford.
Power drills are one alternative, but since they can’t be properly sterilized, her team designed a medically suitable cover that only exposes the drill chuck and bit.
Several sets of covers and attachments could allow the drill to be used in multiple operations daily.
While perhaps not as desirable as a proper, $30,000 surgical drill, the alternative for those in Uganda is typically a handdrill.
“The holes you drill with a handdrill are just not as good,” Huisman said.
Along with other students, her group has now formed their own company, Arbutus Medical, where she’s a biomedical engineer in charge of laboratory testing.
Eighteen of the covers are currently in use at Mulago Hospital as part of a pilot that began in April.
Her team is now awaiting international certification for the cover — the plan is to potentially expand to other countries.
“It’s safe to say we may have touched between 1,000 to 2,000 lives (so far),” Huisman said, noting fractures are disproportionately high in developing countries.