Shock detector in world's top 30 life saving innovations

Thursday 6 August 2015


A blood pressure device that detects shock in pregnant women has been named as one of the top 30 life saving innovations in the world.

The Microlife Vital Signs Alert (VSA), developed by experts at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College London, is the first device in the world that can detect whether a woman is likely to go into shock after blood loss during childbirth.

It was selected from more than 500 innovations from 50 different countries to make the top 30 in the Innovation Countdown 2030 (PDF), a list that identifies and showcases high-impact technology and innovations that could solve the world’s most urgent health issues.

Experts estimate that the VSA could cut maternal deaths in developing countries by up to 25%, saving more than 70,000 women’s lives a year.

Professor Andrew Shennan, consultant obstetrician at Guy’s and St Thomas’ who developed the VSA with his team, says: “We’re delighted that the VSA has received such high profile recognition so quickly after it was developed. In just a few short months it’s made a massive impact.

“To be included in this list, amongst these incredible health inventions and innovations, is an honour.”

Led by PATH, a leading organisation in global health innovation, the Innovation Countdown 2030 aims to highlight ideas that can transform global health by 2030.

The VSA, which was funded by a $1 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was introduced in community settings and hospitals across Africa and Asia in March. A further £1.1 million from the Medical Research Council has been granted to evaluate the impact of the device. 

The device requires minimal training. It has a traffic light system that clearly indicates the risk of shock or high blood pressure. It is accurate, costs less than £12, and the battery is suitable for the developing world as it can be used with USB phone chargers.

Professor Suellen Miller, Director of the Safe Motherhood Programmes at the University of California, advised the team when they were developing the device. She says: "For the VSA to be listed as one of the top 30 life saving devices in the world so soon after its development is well deserved recognition for Professor Shennan and his team.

“The VSA is a simple but smart device that is already saving the lives of women around the world that otherwise would have been needlessly lost.”

The Microlife VSA was initially trialled in Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Zambia. It is now in use in seven countries in Africa and Asia in maternity, intensive care and community settings.

Professor Shennan adds: “We’re very proud of this device, it is unique for use in pregnancy. Not only can it accurately detect when a woman is in danger from high blood pressure or shock but also it indicates, to untrained people, when to act on this. I use it in my NHS clinic as it is superior to most existing devices for measuring blood pressure.”

Last updated: August 2015

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