Toilet Plunger Inspired Negative Pressure Wound Vacuum Saves Lives and Dollars in Post-Earthquake Haiti

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Negative Pressure Wound Vac.jpgMIT PhD Candidate Danielle Zurovcik was inspired by the structure of a toilet plunger in her attempts to design and manufacture an affordable, highly portable, and energy efficient machine that would do the job that Negative Pressure Wound Vacuums do.  Her efforts produced a pump that costs $3, weighs less than half a pound, and uses only 14 microwatts of power.  Whats more? The negative pressure vacuum can be charged with a hand pump.  Negative Pressure Wound Therapy employed in hospitals usually use wound vacuums that cost $10 a day to rent, and weigh 10 pounds.

This new, portable, cheap, and simple vacuum is extremely useful in places suffering from the destruction of a natural disaster.  Under these circumstances, open wounds are at an especially high risk for opportunistic infection, preventing the healing process from occurring.  Allowing for Negative Pressure Wound Therapy to be an viable option for doctors treating vulnerable wounds in states of disaster and emergency is certainly an advance to healthcare at large.

Negative Pressure Wound Therapy is defined as, "a therapeutic technique used to promote healing in acute or chronic wounds, fight infection and enhance healing of burns. A vacuum source is used to create sub-atmospheric pressure in the local wound environment." (Wikipedia).


Image. Danielle Zurovcik's Negative Pressure Pump

Danielle Zurovcik meant to first test her new pump in Rwanda, but after disaster struck Haiti in the form of an earthquake, she found her new device hitting clinical trials earlier than she expected.

I have personally worked with "wound vacs" - the heavy, and expensive kind, they're a little difficult to work with, but I understand their importance to wound healing.  This new device may not be the most technically complex, and it may greatly resemble a toilet plunger, but it is proof that sometimes the best solutions are found in elegant simplicity.  Sometimes, cutting out all the extravagance and focusing on basic scientific principles can create a noteworthy product.

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