Uterine Balloon Tamponade designed to respond to life-threatening situations in low-resource settings

Cambridge Design Partnership develops innovative device to help address global maternal mortality rates

The new Uterine Balloon Tamponade

Cambridge Design Partnership has developed a novel Uterine Balloon Tamponade (UBT).

This medical device is designed to help healthcare workers respond to life-threatening situations experienced by mothers after childbirth, specifically in low-resource settings.

Postpartum Haemorrhage (PPH) is the term given to severe bleeding within 24 hours of childbirth. It is the single leading cause of maternal mortality and is thought to be responsible for approximately 57,000 deaths each year worldwide, nearly all of which occur in developing regions. But, with the right kind of equipment deployed at the right time, PPH can be treated very effectively.

In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) updated its recommendations to include the UBT as a treatment for PPH when uterotonic drugs are ineffective or unavailable.

To be effective in low-resource settings, medical products such as UBTs must be affordable and available; optimised for the intended conditions of distribution, storage, and use

Commercially-available UBTs can cost as much as $200 each and need to be carefully inserted in theatre by trained clinicians. These factors prohibit their use in low-resource areas, where currently a makeshift alternative assembled by tying a condom to a urinary catheter – the ‘condom catheter’ – is being trialled. While this device is certainly cheaper, it still requires careful assembly, significant training and skill to be successful.

The new UBT designed by Cambridge Design Partnership bridges the gap between the more-expensive versions used in the West and the ‘condom catheter’. Its novel design combines features that make it intuitive and effective to use, to enable patient safety even in the hands of less experienced users – as well as ensuring cost effectiveness for manufacture.

Lucy Sheldon, human-centred design specialist at Cambridge Design Partnership, said: “To be effective in low-resource settings, medical products such as UBTs must be affordable and available; optimised for the intended conditions of distribution, storage, and use.

To meet these needs we applied a human centred approach to the innovation process - combining expertise in human factors, risk management and interaction design - to the development of our device. Our aim was to maximise usability in the hands of minimally-trained birth assistants and lower the overall costs of the intervention through reducing the medical professionals, equipment and training required to safely and effectively use the device - to ultimately save lives.”

Cambridge Design Partnership is now actively looking for partners and funding to continue the development of its UBT concept to identify and test progressive training and deployment strategies potentially utilising mobile phones and to quantify the potential of a ‘reduced training’ UBT intervention.