This solar-powered decontamination station offers safer surgeries in underdeveloped areas
  • 8 years ago
HOUSTON — Researchers at Rice University have created a mobile, solar-powered facility that can sterilize surgical instruments areas lacking the proper facilities.

Called the Sterile Box, the station is built into a standard 20-foot steel shipping container complete with all the equipment necessary to prepare surgical instruments for safe reuse, including a water system for decontamination and a solar-powered autoclave for steam sterilization. Autoclaves, or pressure chambers, are standard in modern hospitals, but sorely needed in low-resource settings.

In low-resource areas, a third of patients suffer surgical-site infections, a number nine times higher than in developed countries. These infection lengthen hospital stays and can lead to death. Most low-resource areas have inefficient systems, improperly maintained or malfunctioning equipment or no equipment at all, and unreliable power.

The Sterile Box addresses all these problems.

The station includes solar panels and electrical storage. It also has water distribution from two tanks: one on the ground that has a hand pump to move water to the second 50-gallon tank on the roof. Inside are two rooms: a main area and a foyer that separates the sterile processing area with a small window to pass instruments in and out.

Processing is divided into four stations. At station one, technicians decontaminate instruments in a three-basin sink, removing debris and then soaking them in an enzymatic detergent and scrubbing with nylon brushes before a final rinse.

At the second station, an electric hotplate heats the steam autoclave that sterilizes the instruments.

At the third station, the instruments are dried on wire racks and then moved to the fourth station, a storage cabinet where they await the next surgery.

The research team is currently looking at clinical testing for the Sterile Box.


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