Victoria Harris explains the difficulties of using and maintaining anaesthetic equipment in isolated or developing parts of the world; she tells us how a doctor from Gloucester invented and developed a solution
Operating theatres have a distinct sound. Unless dominated by the roar of an orthopaedic chain saw, it is the anaesthetist and his or her monitors that provide that familiar backdrop to the theatre. Bleeping, clunking, suction, and alarm bells reflect the degree of sophistication achieved in modern anaesthetic monitoring--at least in the affluent Western world.
In the United Kingdom, we worry about how we are going to replace thousands of anaesthetic machines without hypoxic guards, but anaesthetists in isolated or less developed parts of the world are grateful for a machine that works at all.
Most modern anaesthetic machines are complicated expensive pieces of equipment costing between £20 000 (a31 066; $31 882) and £40 000. They need high level maintenance and servicing by trained engineers. They rely on the Western luxuries of continuous electricity and compressed gas supplies, not to mention expensive anaesthetic agents. These machines are not suitable