Making of the Vein Locator

In Uganda and in many other LMICs, more than 80% of the patients admitted into hospital wards need intravenous cannulation to deliver fluids and medications or for withdrawing blood. In the case of Pediatric patients, older adults, obese patients, patients with low blood pressure and/or dark skinned patients, this procedure is often very difficult and requires complex skill for clinicians to locate a vein beneath the patient’s skin. Failed attempts may result into further complications and In order to ensure safe administration of intravenous fluids and drugs, electronic devices are necessary.

Paul Gusimba, a Hardware Engineering student, and Emmanuel Kamuhire , a Data communications Engineer, first visited Kenya in 2017 as Ishow finalists. They were showcasing their first prototype of the A-Lite Vein Locator, a low cost, non- invasive light-weight blood vessel illuminator designed to alleviate the Clinician’s work burden associated with finding a proper vein during peripheral intravenous cannulation among children with barely visible or palpable veins.

In mid-2018, the team made a visit to Gearbox offices at Industrial Area in Nairobi, where the plan to improve their prototype was quickly launched across the East Africa borders. The first generation prototype was built by assembling red LEDs on two separate breadboards with the intention of proving the possibility to visualize the veins.

Gearbox was tasked to improve the design to allow clinicians to cannulate with their hands free, incorporated end users feedback and develop a product suitable for both usability and performance testing with a device charging system and 3D-printed casing.

The vein locator uses the principle of red light absorption by deoxy-hemoglobin content in the patient’s vein. Deoxy-hemoglobin in the vein absorbs red light and veins therefore show up clearly on the patient’s skin against the brighter red background of the surrounding tissues. In addition, red light is non-ionizing in nature, harmless to human skin and does not need extra equipment to process the image.

The first prototype we built was sent back to Uganda for assessment by the team: Solomon Oshabahebwa, a Biomedical engineering student, Julius Mubiru and Brian Ssenkumba who are medical students. The prototype was tested in Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital and Holy Innocents Children Hospital which through a Human Centered Design, a few changes were made to optimize the features of the products.

By September 2019, Paul Gusimba, who had spent several days at our workshop, left for Uganda with a fully functional vein locator locally customized for the people of Uganda.

Paul Gusimba working with Michael Wairagu on the vein locator circuit board

The end users of this innovation are the clinicians and the target customers are: health facilities in Uganda. The beneficiaries of this innovation are patients with difficulty in vein location. For critically ill patients, every second counts and therefore we believe that the device will serve as a convenient non-invasive tool in identifying potential cannulation sites leading to: reduced tissue trauma, reduced economic costs, and higher patient satisfaction.

It was a great pleasure working with the team at Gearbox kenya