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Image credit: Daniel Cooper / Engadget

The tools you need to perform surgery are in this suitcase

Ekano's smart suitcase offers high-tech medical gear for surgeons in the developing world.
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Daniel Cooper / Engadget

In the US, laparoscopic surgeries are commonplace, since there are plenty of well-appointed hospitals packed to the ceilings with high-tech gear. In the developing world, things aren't so easy, and often surgeons are expected to buy and maintain their own equipment, which can cost up to $150,000. Cambridge Consultants thinks it can help, and has developed a portable laparoscopic surgery kit called Ekano.

Gallery: Ekano surgical suitcase | 7 Photos

A routine laparoscopy requires four things: a sterile environment, an illuminated imaging camera, electronic medical records and a CO2 pump. It's the last one on that list that probably raises a few eyebrows, but CO2 is pumped inside the patient's body in order to give the surgeon room to maneuver. Ekano, which fits inside a suitcase, can offer the latter three needs in a single, relatively small package.

The idea was cooked up by Cambridge Consultants' Rahul Sathe after extensive research into the Indian medical market. Surgeons over there travel between hospitals to reach patients and often struggle to access the right equipment. In addition, doctors on the subcontinent often share medical records over services like WhatsApp since there is no centralized electronic medical records database. That's why Ekano comes with portable WiFi and cellular hotspots so teams can highlight information from their smartphones.

In order to reduce the costs further, the company has done away with the expensive three-chip camera sensor you'd find inside most high-end surgical cameras. Instead, Ekano uses a single chip sensor, but with much more image processing algorithms on the back end. Sathe's team has also worked on a new series of surgical tools that are much easier to clean and therefore are better-suited to re-use rather than constant disposal.

No medical technology company has yet to express an interest in the kit, but Sathe believes that Ekano would cost between $30,000 and $40,000. That's a significant drop compared to the $150,000 it would cost for roughly similar hardware in the US and Europe. Sure, it's not necessarily going to be a piece of kit that everyone will be wanting this holidays, but it could help some of the world's poorest people access better healthcare.

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