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Early warning test that could save lives

Doctors get early warning test that could save lives

A vital blood test that doesn’t require taking a patient’s blood?  It sounds like science fiction, but it is not. A new medical device being launched in New Zealand this week, looks set to revolutionise patient safety and anaemia detection.  

Instead of a needle, Masimo noninvasive and continuous total hemoglobin (SpHb™) uses a finger sensor to measure a person’s hemoglobin or red blood cell levels instantaneously—without removing a drop. The breakthrough technology was developed by American company Masimo, world leaders in noninvasive patient monitoring. 

New Zealand distributor Jan Smeath of ProMed Technologies predicts the impact of Masimo noninvasive hemoglobin will be extraordinary. She says “Even during its clinical trials it has saved a life.”  Jan says she’s so impressed by the potential of noninvasive hemoglobin that she’s ensured New Zealand is one of the first countries in the world to have it registered and ready to use.

Currently, the only way to test a patient’s vital hemoglobin level is to insert a needle into a vein, draw blood and have that blood analysed.  This method is intermittent and only offers delayed snapshots of hemoglobin levels at a particular point in time, which can result in diagnosis and treatment delays. In some situations the test can be out of date by the time the results come back, especially if the patient has hidden internal bleeding.

A former theatre nurse, Jan says she knows only too well why doctors often don’t have time to wait for lab results, especially in emergency situations. Jan says it can be very difficult to tell if a patient is bleeding internally, or whether they need more or less of a transfusion. “Noninvasive hemoglobin will arm clinicians with continuous information they’ve never had before and its accuracy is astounding.” 

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Masimo’s breakthrough noninvasive hemoglobin may enable earlier and better clinical decision-making, improved patient safety, and reduced costs by potentially facilitating more efficient transfusion management during surgery, earlier detection of hidden bleeding, and real-time anemia detection.

With Rainbow SET Pulse CO-Oximeters, clinicians will have the ability to test for eight different noninvasive measurements without having to take a drop of blood, allowing for the early detection and treatment of potentially life-threatening conditions.

Jan Smeath says the potential of Masimo noninvasive hemoglobin goes beyond emergency situations and could save many people from having painful and costly blood tests.  “I believe it could be a lifesaver on maternity wards where keeping track of a woman’s blood levels during child birth is vital, but it will also be effective in GP’s offices where it could instantly warn if a patient is suffering from anemia and save hemophiliacs from incessant painful blood tests.”

There could also be big benefits for paediatric units where blood tests can be fraught and traumatic for children.  Starship specialist paediatric anesthetist Bryan Hodkinson says: “It will be like having an altimeter on an airplane—an early warning system that could alert us to problems.”  Dr Hodkinson says when you’re dealing with a small child who only has about a teacup of circulating blood volume you can’t afford to have hidden blood loss. Currently, he says the shortest test available is also the least reliable and can take up to four minutes for a single reading. More reliable tests may take 10-15mins.  Out of the operating room, getting blood for the test can be extremely traumatic., He says anything that removes the need for needles will be a relief to children and parents.

Dr Michael O’Reilly, EVP of Medical Affairs at Masimo is in New Zealand this week to present noninvasive hemoglobin to clinicians at meetings in Auckland and Wellington.  Dr. O’Reilly is an expert in anesthesiology and a passionate advocate for patient safety.  He says “No other technology can provide continuous, noninvasive hemoglobin measurements.  Masimo SpHb has the potential to revolutionize the way clinicians assess anemic status and make more timely decisions that may affect millions of patients worldwide.”


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