Hemosep: the machine set to revolutionise blood transfusions

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The idea of being able to recover a patient’s own blood and put it back into their body is not new, but until now it has been expensive and largely unworkable. Autotransfusion, as it is known, has typically used large, complex, centrifugal devices that require skilled operators, take a lot of time and are very expensive. The cumbersome machines used in many hospitals return just the red blood cells, eliminating the platelets needed for clotting and the white cells required to fight infection. That can lead to complications.

A new machine, devised by Strathclyde University’s biomedical engineering department, may change all that. Hemosep, as it is known, is designed for use during major surgery. It removes blood from the surgical site, takes out the plasma and returns the vital blood cells to the patient, all through a single lightweight device.

The key is a special plastic bag into which the recovered blood is poured. This acts as a chemical “sponge”, soaking up plasma that has diluted the blood during the operation, so that the resulting transfusion is rich in the vital blood cells needed by the patient.

In 2014-15, NHS Blood and Transplant issued 1.7m units of red blood cells, 275,000 units of platelets, 215,000 units of fresh frozen plasma and 165,000 units of cryoprecipitate (frozen blood plasma) to hospitals in England and North Wales. Hemosep’s makers say the device could save the NHS £2.6m a year.

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