CAIRO, Egypt – Recent studies show that a device known as the Non-Inflatable Anti-Shock Garment (NASG) may help to reduce the number of maternal deaths in developing countries.
Wrapped around the lower extremities after childbirth, the NASG can lessen postpartum hemorrhaging (PPH) following delivery. During PPH, a new mother experiences a significant loss of blood vaginally. Left untreated, PPH can lead to shock, organ failure, and death. In countries where women give birth at home, without immediate access to medical attention or blood transfusions, PPH is especially dangerous. Currently, 25 percent of childbirth deaths are due to PPH, with 99 percent of all maternal deaths occurring in developing nations, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The NASG may change this. In Egypt, reproductive specialist and researcher Dr. Suellen Miller used the suit, along with medication, to treat 206 PPH patients. An additional 158 patients were given only the drugs. According to Miller’s findings, those wrapped in the suit lost 50 percent less blood than those who only received medication. “The results are dramatic, particularly given the suit can be easily applied by anyone,” said Miller.
Made of neoprene and resembling the lower part of a wetsuit, the NASG is placed around the legs and abdomen, and then tightened with Velcro. The pressure of the suit prevents blood from pooling in the lower extremities, instead sending it back into the heart, lungs, brain and other vital organs. The NASG can be applied in three minutes and reused up to 40 times.
Of course, the NASG cannot stop PPH. Instead, it simply slows the bleeding, buying a woman time to reach a hospital or receive a blood transfusion. Nevertheless, the suit still reduces the likelihood of severe organ damage, and could prevent up to 100,000 PPH deaths a year, according to Miller’s study.
More trials, with larger samples, will have to be conducted before the true potential of the NASG is known. Until then, it seems unlikely that organizations like the WHO will endorse the device or encourage its donation. Currently, those most in need of the suit are those who can least afford it, as each suit can run an upward of $160.
“Of course, cost would come into it and the suits do not solve the problem, they just buy you time,” said James Walker, a doctor at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecology. But the drawbacks could be well worth the results.
“In our research, women who appeared clinically dead, with no blood pressure and palpable pulse, were resuscitated and kept alive for up to two days [with the suits]while waiting for a blood transfusion,” said Miller.
– Jordanna Packtor