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MIT Student Develops $3 Cutting-Edge Healing Device, Field Tested in Haiti

The new device could radically improve healing times for tens of millions, at a cost of $3.

hand-powered suction device

No one really knows why, but for an open wound, simply applying suction dramatically speeds healing times. (The theory is that the negative pressure draws bacteria out, and encourages circulation.) But for almost everyone, that treatment is out of reach—simply because the systems are expensive—rentals cost at least $100 a day and need to be recharged every six hours.

No more. Danielle Zurovcik, a doctoral student at MIT, has created a hand-powered suction-healing system that costs about $3. The device is composed of an airtight wound dressing, connected by a plastic tube to a cylinder with accordion-like folds. Squeezing it creates the suction, which lasts as long as there's no air leak. What's more, where regular dressings need to be replaced up to three times a day—a painful ordeal—the new cuff can be left on for several days.

hand-powered suction device

Zurovcik originally intended to field-test the device in Rwanda, but then the Haiti Earthquake struck. At the request of Partners in Health, an NGO, she traveled to Haiti with 50 of the pumps.

Currently, Zurovcik is verifying the healing benefits of the device, and developing a new model that can be readily carried and concealed. The one technical hurdle that remains is ensuring the bandage seals tightly—but after that, the device could benefit a huge portion of the 50-60 million people in the developing world that suffer from acute or chronic wounds.

[Top image: Melanie Gonick/MIT; Bottom image: Patrick Gillooly/MIT]

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  • Dean Whitehead

    Your invention sucks, Ms. Zurovcik, but you knew that.  I have a kitchen tool that uses rubber stoppers and a reverse syringe-like pump to reseal open wine bottles for longer storage.  Bet such a device would work to make the wound dressings self-contained AND easily re=evacuated as needed.  Nice going!

  • scott griffis

    I would like to see a way for physicians to submit needs for new devices and machines to a pool of inventors and then let them have at it. It seems that if that had been done with this device, someone could have developed it long ago. What about other solutions that are just waiting for someone to find out they are needed?


  • Esther Smith

    I am a wound specialist and have worked with an array of traditional dressings as well as NPWT. The science behing NPWT has been studied and well documented. After reading posts here, most of the issues and concerns have been addressed by research. I agree foam based dressings are painful (documented by neuropeptides for pain and inflammation in wound bed tissue). NPWT utilizing gauze based contact layers provides a stronger and more organized granulation tissue. That is one positive for this device. I would be skeptical in applying this device in the article due to no patient safety monitors to ensure pressure is what it should be. Too much pressure causes a halo of hypoxia to the tissues that extends through and beyond the wound bed.

  • Charles Russell

    Great solution. When a child my grandmother [a country doctor] would use one of the suction caps from a snake bite kit [remember those?]. It was simple but effective. As kids we also adapted a vacuum cleaner hose! No kidding. When we got poison oak or ivy we'd put some peroxide on the rash and then the vacuum hose. I never said we were normal, just busy.


  • Mary Specht

    Funny a few people have noted it's "just" a plunger with a tube, and have triumphantly announced they could make this themselves. Definitely! That's the whole genius, right? The fact that you can find these materials at a Dollar Store makes the idea no less novel - and so much more promising.

  • fizz fizzer

    at geeta

    name calling? is that really all you have? name calling?

    you are what is wrong with america. you have absolutely zero to offer in the way of rational dialogue. so you just start calling names.

    excellent work geeta. you are well on your way to getting your own segment on msnbc


  • fizz fizzer

    my response to dennis:

    i never said or even implied doctors would lower their fees if they were less fearful of getting sued.

    i explained that fear of being sued and losing everything you worked 10-15 years to get caused doctors to
    order unnecessary tests, imaging, visits, consults, procedures.

    every single day a physician will make a decision that will be influenced from his fear of being sued.

    and no matter how well you managed the case, ordered the right tests, blah blah, when the lawyer rolls little 8 year old johnny out into the courtroom in a wheel chair and mom is're screwed.

    obama and company demonized everyone involved in health care problems except lawyers. they never made mention of the role trial lawyers play. they never attempted to address it. and why would they when they are all lawyers.

    and as for the person who put up some fortune 500 company profit statement meaning to show how well health care industries and insurance companies perform, there are at least a dozen fast food places that annually post higher profit margins and percentages than any single health care field.

    insurance companies make a profit to be sure. but this idea that they are the equivalent of "big oil" companies is absurd and was force fed to us by pelosi and reed


  • c m

    I love how simple this is what a great alternative for a wound vac. I wish I had thought of it! And to Larry yes this may not be ideal and may have many problems that more expensive alternatives do not, but you can think of this two ways. 1. Does the benefits outweigh the risks for a particular population that does not have access to the original devices and 2. This is only a starting point for the cheap devices at one point i'm sure wound vacs had some drawbacks that they don't today.

    And again as to Regina this has nothing to do with compression. Compression can help heal wounds only in the fact that they may reduce some scarring and contracture but it doesn't actually have to do with the real wound healing. Tension has been shown in some animal studies to improve healing by making the matrix more organized though but that still would have nothing to do with compression.

  • Lauren Simpson

    Same principle as a Hemovac or Jackson Pratt used postop. Just use a dressing interface or conduit for fluid in the wound bed, position the drain in the wound bed into the interface, connect drain to the resorvoir, compress and you have your closed NP system. Sealing for a closed system is easy with transparent film, skin prep, etc... all inexpensive supplies. Also note that you do not have to continuously manually "pump" the resorvoir (as one comment seemed to suggest) - it is a closed vacuum system - you compress the resorvoir (to remove the air)and that creates the negative pressure. As it pulls fluid into the container, it loses pressure over time. You empty the container of fluid and "recharge" the system by compressing the resoivoir again. It may last for days before a recharge is needed. Questions would be: how many mm of NP are delivered, is it sustained over time, is it high enough to affect wound healing, could a Hemovac or JP drain already on the shelf be used for this purpose today? Very interesting.
    L Simpson

  • geeta 719

    Brent Corbaley, nice response for that cry-baby doctor.
    As far as changing the corrupt and systems that feed on and glorify cheating and lying and 'finding loopholes' in a policy, to make money - it can only be achieved by the (Colbert's) 'truthiness', which I donot see getting anything but some laughs for the majority of the public. The much advertised democracy, as the voters see term after term, is a system where you are given a handul of idiots trying to prove each other as such, and asking the voters to pick among them to authorize them for the next 4 yrs. Changing that, takes a lot of wisdom and beaking the stereptypical 'good life' idea. Can someone do that - getting rid of the stereotypical mindset, ingrained into the brains from childhood? Right here in the comments section we see people be-littling the devoce as made of 'cheap' components - they are ones that create millionnaires and then expect the government to give them free this and free that.
    Great idea on the medical device - more thinkers and doers like that can make life affordable without having to be a millionnaire. Hope the pharma & insurance companies and, yes, the medical practitioners AND the lawyers do not snub your innovations to come.

  • Derrick Stephan

    Dont listen to "regina ja". She is full of bullshit information that she apparently just made up. Compression does not help wounds heal. It actually prevents wounds from healing. We're talking about creating negative pressure around the wound, a completely opposite concept. Weirdo. and oh ya, Certified Compression Specialist is not a real credential. She made that up too.

  • Monty Pettway

    You can see it in the markets. They sell here in the States. You can pick it up at any of your hardware stores in the toilet plunger isle.

  • Monty Pettway

    Great use for a toilet plunger. I got one I can send to Haiti to be tested.