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Cleaner Lungs

Unicamp licenses new equipment

WIKIMEDIA COMMONSChest traumas account for roughly 25% of the deaths of general trauma victims. Chest draining, i.e., the removal of liquids or gases from this cavity, is one of the most frequent surgical procedures in the case of traffic or firearm accidents. To improve the health care and recovery of these patients, physicians from the Medical School of the State University of Campinas/Unicamp created a device used for chest drainage; this device proposes a change relative to the conventional method, created more than a century ago. The new system was licensed in October to Kolplast, a São Paulo firm that specializes in medical and hospital products. The device is scheduled to get to the market near mid-2009.

A conventional drain consists of a tube inserted into the pleura and the chest cavity; the tube is connected to a small rubber hose that leads to a water-filled plastic or glass vial, referred to as the underwater seal. One of the inconveniences of this system is the weight of the underwater seal, the capacity of which ranges from 500 to 1,000 milliliters, which hampers mobility and the transportation of patients during emergencies. The system created at Unicamp, uses the same tube, which is inserted into the chest cavity; the tube is connected to the device, an acrylic, funnel-shaped, 10-centimeter long drain with a 5-centimeter diameter. The device has a small unidirectional valve so that the air or the liquid can flow out of the cavity. The hose and the underwater seal are eliminated; the underwater seal is replaced by a collecting pouch. “This system is much smaller and can be covered up by the patient’s clothes. The advantage is that the patient is not tied to the bed, can start moving around earlier and can even go home with the device; this reduces hospital stays and cost,” says surgeon Alfio José Tincani, one of the inventors of the device, together with his colleague Gilson Barreto, who is also a surgeon.

The doctors’ initial idea was to use this technology in hospital care situations. However, a study conducted with chest trauma patients that were referred to emergency services out of hospitals proved that the valve is also very efficient in these situations. The study is part of the master’s degree thesis of Dr Alexandre Garcia de Lima, who worked for the Mobile Emergency Unit Service/SAMU in Campinas. This thesis was presented in February 2006.

The researchers said that the greatest challenge during the development of this device was to design an ideal valve, capable of keeping air from going into the chest and that, at the same time, would not “stick,” which would have made it impossible for air or liquids to flow out of the chest cavity. “We had to modify the materials many times until we found the ideal sort,” states Tincani.

The technology, developed in 1992, won an honorable mention at the São Paulo State Governor’s Awards (Prêmio Governador do Estado de São Paulo) that year. “At that time, we filed a patent request for the device, but were unable to find a partner interested in manufacturing it on an industrial scale,” explains the researcher. “In early 2008, when the patent was about to expire, I contacted Unicamp and once again tried to find a company interested in the technology. Kolplast heard about this equipment as a result of the master’s degree thesis and contacted us.” According to Giancarlo Ciola, an executive officer of Unicamp’s Inova innovation agency, responsible for the licensing, the device is in the course of being approved by Anvisa, the Brazilian health care industry’s regulating authority, to then go onto the market. The product, the price of which is yet to be set, may also be exported. “We plan to export the product and to this end we are going to introduce it to the medical community at three trade fairs to be held next year in the United States, Germany and the Arab Emirates,” says Nívea Fittipaldi, commercial director of Kolplast.