Dec. 25, 2003 Australian scientists have invented a simple device that is ready to help thousands of premature babies in third-world countries who suffer from respiratory difficulties - problems that can cause brain damage and blindness.
Dr Kurt Liffman of CSIRO Biomedical Devices says, "The Oxymix device is a simple, compact and inexpensive device to mix oxygen and atmospheric air".
"The Oxymix was originally conceived for use in developing countries where hospitals have access to medical-grade compressed oxygen, but not to medical-grade compressed air."
In such hospitals, when babies are treated for respiratory difficulties or lung disease, they are usually put in an 'oxygen hood', which is supplied with a small amount of pure oxygen. This may raise the oxygen level, but as the gas flow is so low, the baby's exhaled carbon dioxide builds up in the hood. This build-up can cause serious problems. Also, as the level of oxygen is very hard to maintain, it can vary from being too high (causing blindness) or too low (causing brain damage).
"The air that is provided to pre-term babies must be an appropriate air/oxygen mix and the Oxymix device does this simply and safely. It provides a way of supplying the correct flow rate of any concentration of oxygen from 21% to 100%, via a single 100% oxygen gas supply."
The development of the Oxymix is a joint project between the Australian medical devices company NASCOR and CSIRO BioMedical Devices.
"NASCOR went to CSIRO to help us develop this device because we knew of their expertise in gas flow and turbine technology", says Dr Howard Chilton, Chairman and Director of R&D at NASCOR.
"CSIRO's mechanical design met all of our objectives in a most elegant fashion. It has enabled us to manufacture an inexpensive, highly professional and critically useful device that will help thousands of babies around the world."
NASCOR used high-quality industrial and electronic design to make the Oxymix an easy to use, attractive and safe device. Taking the basic concept, sophisticated electronics were employed to provide internal safety mechanisms and alarm systems to make this a state-of-the-art medical device that also has applications in advanced medical markets.
In advanced medical markets, the alternative products are either a very expensive air/oxygen 'blender' or a very noisy and high gas flow venturi mixer.
It is envisaged that the Oxymix will be available to hospitals for around A$500 (compared to upwards of A$2000 for a blender). In addition, the Oxymix should provide hospitals further cost savings as it does not need a compressed air supply and only uses relatively low flows of oxygen.
CSIRO Biomedical Devices is a specialised R&D unit attached to CSIRO Energy & Thermofluids Engineering, which is a world leader in computational fluid dynamics and offers the only comprehensive fluid dynamics laboratory in Australia.
NASCOR Pty Ltd is a Sydney-based developer of innovative medical devices with specialist expertise in the neonatal care market. The company's product range also includes oxygen hoods and a phototherapy eye mask, which it currently exports to over 30 countries worldwide. NASCOR is always seeking ideas from healthcare workers for new medical devices.
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The above story is based on materials provided by CSIRO Australia.
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