The Automated Ambu Bag System, AABS

Designing Medical Technology within a Country’s and Hospital’s Limited Capital

Peter Kavuma, a master’s student of emergency medicine and emergency resident at Makerere University in Uganda, is often forced to make life-or-death decisions due to a lack of accessible ventilatory support at the Mulago National Referral Hospital, Uganda’s largest public hospital.

In low-resource settings, medical support is limited and advanced respiratory support systems are rare. In Uganda, there are only 55 ICU beds to support the country’s population of nearly 42 million. Consequently, patients in need of advanced ventilatory support wait in high dependency units and receive respiratory support manually by health professionals, limiting already strained medical support teams.

During his clinical rotations, Kavuma described making the difficult decision to refrain from intubation because there was no access to advanced ventilatory support. “It eats at your soul every time,” he said, noting that some of his patients are in their twenties and are never given a “fighting chance” to survive.

The Automated Ambu Bag System Team

Motivated to find a medical solution to an issue that plagues low-resource hospitals, Kavuma and his team of biomedical engineers developed a low-cost, easy-to-maintain ventilatory device called the Automated Ambu Bag System (AABS).

The AABS device uses an existing and affordable bagging technology, theAmbu Bag, which is light and easily transferred from bed to bed, and provides the same vital features as an Advanced Ventilatory Support System.

Kavuma explained that AABS devices can work within a hospital’s high dependency units, an in-between space for critical patients waiting for an ICU bed, and he hopes they will give patients the “fighting chance” they deserve.

Since first applying to the Big Ideas Contest in September 2019, Kavuma said the Contest has helped him and his team “build what was just an idea into a solid plan towards a tangible device.” He also noted the value of the mentorship he has received from Ronald Kayiwa, an innovations manager at USAID-Resilient Africa Network, who helped Kavuma and his team guide their innovation into a product.

Kavuma believes that introducing AABS into low-resource hospitals can reduce mortality rates and prove that designing an advanced technology for a country’s limited capital while “still maintaining quality and efficacy in patient care delivery” is possible.

“We hope this will spur a revolution in the biomedical engineering arena for scientists in low-resource countries.”

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