Following is an excerpt from the Forbes.com blog by Helen Coster discussing the lifewrap, a breakthrough in caring for expectant mothers in the developing world. Quoted in the piece is UCSF Ob/Gyn & RS faculty member Suellen Miller.
(It has been established) that every year over 500,000 women die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. One of the biggest causes of maternal death is postpartum hemorrhaging (PPH), which occurs when a woman bleeds heavily, often right after giving birth. Prolonged bleeding can destroy a woman's vital organs, and ultimately cause her to go into shock and die.
In parts of Africa and South Asia, doctors are relying on a wetsuit-like device to slow the speed of blood loss due to PPH. The device doesn't treat PPH, but it buys patients time until they can get blood transfusions or travel to a more advanced medical facility. Michael and Sheri Hillenga, a husband and wife team in Ashland, Oregon, patented the device— called the Non-Inflatable Anti-Shock Garment (NASG)— and distribute it, through a partner, around the world. Zoex charges $170 for the device; Hong Kong manufacturer Blue Fuzion Group charges a wholesale rate of $53.
In 2003 Dr. Suellen Miller, a reproductive health expert at the University of California, San Francisco, read an article about the device, which by that point was being used for PPH in additional to trauma. Doctors and clinicians use the device as soon as the woman starts to bleed after giving birth. "I felt very skeptical," says Miller. "I thought 'This isn't possible because the device is so simple and easy to use. How could it work so effectively?'"
To test the device's efficacy for PPH, Miller tapped the MacArthur Foundation, which funded trials at hospitals in Egypt and Nigeria. Today she's running a second set of trials, in Zambia and Zimbabwe, thanks to funding from the NIH and the Gates Foundation. If the trial results are positive, Miller hopes that the WHO will endorse the NASG, and include it on a list of medical devices that UN agencies can donate to countries in need.
Latest research paper published by the UCSF team(PDF): Impact of the Non-pneumatic Anti-Shock Garment on pelvic blood flow in healthy postpartum women
– Felicia Lester, MD, MPH, MS; Amy Stenson, MD, MPH; Carinne Meyer, MPH; Jessica Morris, MA; Juan Vargas, MD; Suellen Miller, PhD, CNM Am J Obstet Gynecol 2011. DOI: 10.1016/j.ajog.2010.12.054