In 2012, there were over 6 million regional anaesthetic blocks performed per year throughout the EU and US. Regional anaesthesia is directed at a specific region of the body to allow a surgical operation or provide post-operative pain relief. Current regional anaesthesia practice requires two operators: an anaesthetist who holds an ultrasound scanner and uses this to guide the needle tip placement and a second operator to inject the anaesthetic solution at a required pressure. It has been reported that anaesthetic solutions are often injected at high pressure. High pressure can cause damage to nerve fascicles, with serious nerve damage occurring in up to 1% of procedures and transient nerve damage in up to 8-10% of cases.
In response to these problems, a group of inventors – Dr Peter Young, Dr Emad Fawzy, Dr Joseph Carter and Dr John Gibson – from our member Trust, Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust, have developed a new method to inject regional anaesthetics. SAFIRA - Safer Injection System For Regional Anaesthesia - allows an anaesthetist to control the entire delivery of anaesthetic as a single operator using actuator controls for use with the needle or ultrasound probe. This eliminates the risks associated with the standard procedure such as irreversible nerve fascicle damage caused by excessive injection pressures. In addition, SAFIRA replaces the need for a second operator therefore offering potential cost savings as well as potential to unlock markets in developing countries where clinical resources are scare.
HEE has been working with the inventors of SAFIRA, applying its commercial & Intellectual Property (IP) expertise to the commercialisation of the SAFIRA technology. HEE has provided the hospital and clinical team with comprehensive assessments which investigated the company’s prospects of achieving granted patents for its technology portfolio. The results have enabled SAFIRA to be protected by a pending patent portfolio. HEE also supported the team by investing development funding and by identifying a product design partner to develop a prototype device.
With the benefit of HEE’s ongoing support and advice, the SAFIRA team has been able to secure investment from the Medtech Accelerator of £80,000 to continue its development. HEE is still continuing to support SAFIRA by identifying further private investment needed for regulatory approval and market launch.