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    Dec 2009


    Default Prototype device could take a load off of obese patients during surgery

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    When an anesthetized obese patient is lying on their back on an operating table, the weight of their abdominal fat can make it difficult for them to breathe. It can also press down on and displace their organs, making certain procedures more challenging. Mehdi Razavi, director of electrophysiology clinical research at the Texas Heart Institute, had encountered such problems first-hand, with patients of his own. He decided to turn to Houstonís Rice University, to see if its students could come up with a solution. In response, a group of bioengineering seniors created something called the R-Aide, which uses vacuum-powered suction cups to lift up patientsí bellies.

    The prototype, which was built for under US$200, utilizes suction cups taken from breast pumps Ė they are mounted on a horizontal steel beam and have very flexible rubber rims, that provide a good seal by conforming to the contours of the skin. These pumps are all hooked up to an electric vacuum pump, which in the case of an operating room could be the existing vacuum system.

    Once the cups have sucked onto the patientís abdomen, the beam is lifted up, and the two ends of it are each set into hooks on vertical posts located on either side of the table. The posts have hooks located at various heights, to accommodate patients of different sizes. This having been done, the abdominal fat is left hanging from the suction cups, instead of bearing down on the patientís diaphragm.

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