By MIKE MWANIKI
Kenya has become the first country in Africa to introduce a surgical device which will assist in salvaging and recycling whole blood during cases of internal bleeding as an alternative to donor blood.
The introduction of the innovative device—known as Hemafuse TM—is an initiative by
Amref Health Africa in Kenya, Sisu Global Health and Surgipharm which aims at improving access to blood and safer surgical outcomes during medical missions and emergencies in Kenya.
The partnership is aimed at increasing blood access in all hospitals to reduce internal bleeding-related deaths through the adoption of HemafuseTM, which allows clinicians to reuse a patient’s own blood gathered from internal bleeding.
Speaking during the unveiling ceremony of the surgical device held in Nairobi, Amref Health Africa in Kenya Country director, Dr Meshack Ndirangu noted: “Blood access is critical to safe surgery as standard surgical practices require two units of blood (to be) on-hand before surgery commences, but there is a severe shortage of blood in the country.”
Dr Ndirangu identified ruptured ectopic pregnancies, ruptured spleen, a ruptured liver, uncontaminated abdominal trauma, coronary artery repair, total hip replacement, abdominal aneurysm and myomectomy as some of the surgical procedures that can be addressed by the device.
According to Dr Ndirangu, the lifesaving innovation marks the start of an exciting journey for Amref Health Africa in Kenya, Sisu Global Health and SurgiPharm into the Kenyan market.
“Lack of access to blood is a major contributor to unnecessary maternal deaths in the developing world particularly during cases of ruptured ectopic pregnancies. According to KNBTS, 60 per cent of the donated blood is used up by mothers and their children for birth-related needs before or after childbirth including caesarean sections.”
Standard surgical practices require two units of blood on-hand before surgery commences, Dr Ndirangu observed, and if this blood is not available, surgery may be delayed or not performed, resulting in increased illness and death.
Autotransfusion presents a great opportunity to provide people in need of blood with their own blood for transfusion instead of donor blood.
A standard practice in North America and Europe, autotransfusion recycles a person’s blood in cases of significant blood loss. It can also aid in cases of large internal bleeds where donor blood is scarce.
Dr Ndirangu says auto transfused blood has many benefits that include reduced risk of infection transmission, safer transfusion in patients with rare blood groups and multiple auto-antibodies, and reducing the demand on the increasingly scarce resource that is donor blood.
Amref Health Africa in Kenya is, therefore, excited to partner with Sisu Global Health and SurgiPharm to help mitigate the otherwise devastating effects of scarce donor blood through autotransfusion.
“This partnership which makes use of an innovative autotransfusion solution will ensure that patients with internal bleeding have a chance of survival and move Kenya closer to addressing the critical blood shortage.”
This initiative comes in the wake of the recent move by the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) to stop its annual funding of Sh2 billion for blood collection and testing services in Kenya.
At the same time, the country is also facing a chronic shortage of blood as the collection of blood has been plagued by the lack of funds for screening tools and human resources to collect and store blood.
HemafuseTM, is manufactured by the US-based corporation, Sisu Global Health, and filters and pumps blood from an internal haemorrhage into a blood bag, allowing it to be re-transfused to the same patient. The device can also be reused up to 25 times. This provides an alternative to donor blood.
Sisu Global Fund chief operating officer, Mr Sajju Jain observed: “It is inspiring to see HemafuseTM used to save lives. With this partnership, we look forward to enabling thousands of more clinicians to save more lives across the country. The work we are doing is incredibly important, and we are proud to have such a strong partnership with Amref and Surgipharm to provide access to blood across Kenya.”
Speaking at the event, Surgipharm Director (Sales and Marketing) Mr Rakesh Vinayak said that the pharmaceutical industry has a critical role to play in finding effective and sustainable solutions to providing access to today’s most pressing health concerns.
“Surgipharm has a highly specialised and experienced management team and our relationships with different players in Kenya’s health sector complements and strengthens our existing skill-set in logistics across the country.”