BASS CONNECTIONS: SUSTAINABLE LAPAROSCOPIC SURGERY FOR LOW-INCOME COUNTRIES
Tamara Fitzgerald, M.D., Ph.D. and Jenna Mueller, Ph.D. are leading a Bass Connections course entitled Sustainable Laparoscopic Surgery for Low-Income Countries. Laparoscopic surgery uses small incisions to operate with an intra-abdominal camera and instruments. Benefits of laparoscopic surgery include decreases in pain, recovery time, scar tissue, wound infections, wound breakdown and length of hospital stay. It is routinely performed in high-income countries. However, laparoscopic surgery is expensive and demands a great amount of infrastructure to maintain the equipment. These costs are prohibitive to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), and therefore most surgeries in these countries are performed with the traditional, open approach.
The goal of this multi-year project is to develop a low-cost, reusable laparoscope appropriate for use in LMICs. In 2018-2019, the team developed a prototype that is robust, low-cost, and maintenance-free with wireless connectivity to facilitate image display on a laptop. For 2019-2020, the goal is to advance the prototype towards a commercial product for patients in LMICs. Movement towards the production phase will require implementing feedback from Ugandan surgeons, putting together documentation for regulatory approval, and creating a preliminary business model.
Masters Student, BME
Working with the Laparoscope team has been a truly enriching experience, not only because of the academic diversity of my team, but also because of how I am pushed to think out of the box. The welcoming environment of Bass Connections, the hands-on approach, and the space it provides to brainstorm, learn and think as creatively as possible has helped me to expand my repertoire of skills within the field of Biomedical Engineering. Learning about BME in the context of global health has also been an interesting and eye-opening experience. I’m extremely grateful for this highly collaborative and interdisciplinary opportunity, and I would encourage people looking for a similar experience to join us!
Ph.D Student, ECE
I chose to apply to the low-cost laporascope team because of the potential impact that this technology would have in developing countries such as Uganda. By making an affordable device to perform laparoscopic surgery with the capability to teach and mentor new surgeons would change the lives of many people. As an electrical engineer, I feel that my technical background is constantly developing and improving. However, being in this field requires having a diverse skill set beyond technical capabilities: understanding product and technology development is an important component of being an engineer. Before Bass Connections, I have not had the opportunity to be involved in a project that focuses on the regulatory landscape of developing new technology. I am grateful for this opportunity to work with alongside surgeons, engineers, and computer scientists.