A group of Rice University students have created a device for doctors in developing countries to help infants with gastroschisis, according to Rice University. Team Si-Low consists of three students, and their low-cost procedure will give doctors a method of treating infants whose abdominal wall is not fully closed and some of the intestines remain outside the body at birth. The team’s name is actually a play on words for “silo bags” used to treat gastroschisis.
Currently, the treatment in Western hospitals includes a sterile silicone bag that holds the intestines over the child and gravity pulls it back to the abdominal cavity, which can take up to five to ten days. This process is fairly expensive, especially for hospitals in Uganda where the child’s survival chances are nearly zero percent if they are born with this condition.
The team realized they had to create a bag from scratch that could be easily replicated in developing countries. They decided on a heavy-duty silicone that could maintain its ragged shape and still keep the intestines warm.
“We got a silicone sheet online and played with a lot of different adhesives to try to glue it together, and nothing worked,” said sophomore Sanika Rane, according to Rice University. “We found out that silicone is really hard to bond to itself and realized quickly that we would have to come up with something else to make this bag. So, we decided to sew. It turned out to be a lot stronger than we expected.”
The other components of the bag are 3D printed. One is an adjustable ring that goes under the infant’s skin that holds the bag in position. The other is a bracket that secures the top of the bag, when the bag is suspended from an intravenous stand.
The team plans to test their device further and must seek the institutional review board approval before it can be used on patients.
“The Ugandan doctor we met with last week said he would definitely want to reuse a bag like this, without a doubt,” said freshman Sajel Dutt. “So we’re thinking about how to sterilize it, how to make it safe and make sure it doesn’t catch and host infections. Going forward, we’ll think about all the logistics.”