In India, 12 million people are living with physical disabilities. While some were born with their disability, many others underwent amputations due to accidents. Now, Shira Medtech, an Ahmedabad-based startup, is hoping to reduce this through innovating a device that can prevent amputations.
“Amputations are highly prevalent globally because reconstructive surgery (known as Microvascular surgery) is a highly complicated procedure. In this procedure, the two broken ends of the blood vessel are reattached to restore blood circulation. There are very few specialists who are trained in this field. Several junior doctors who begin their practice to learn this surgery usually drop out because of the steep learning curve involved,” says Anand Parikh, a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras and the founder of Shira Medtech.
After four years of research, he has innovated a device named Shira Clamp to make blood vessel surgeries easier. It allows even junior doctors to master the procedure and prevent the amputations caused by physical injuries. To date, 200 shira clamps are being used by 60 doctors and hospitals across India. And,across countries like Thailand, Brazil, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, and more are using this device.
A lack of specialists
When Anand was pursuing an integrated degree in Engineering Design, he got the opportunity to work at a renowned hospital in New Delhi.
“Every day, at the hospital, I would observe the work the doctors do and everything going on at the hospital,” says Anand, adding that he noticed that doctors were overworked because the healthcare system has a shortage of medical professionals.
He saw people waiting in long queues outside hospital wards, waiting for their loved ones to get treated. After speaking to a few, he realised that several had travelled hundreds of kilometres from remote villages in India to receive medical treatment.
“They travelled so far because healthcare treatment is still primitive in most parts of the country. Even the treatment that is available is expensive and not accessible to all,” says Anand.
In 2014, while pursuing his final year of Master’s in IIT-M, he took up a project to design healthcare devices. He aimed to make technology that makes healthcare accessible and affordable to everyone. Consequently, he went on to launch Shira Medtech in 2016.
Along with two advisors, who were also co-inventors, Dr VBN Murthy (a plastic surgeon) and Prof V Balasubramanian (a professor at IIT Madras), he began researching. Over four years, Anand made several prototypes, and each was tested, at the lab-level, on animal tissue.
During the initial years, Anand funded his research by renting out a spare room in his apartment to travellers as an Airbnb host and working part-time at a Multinational Company.
“However, in 2017, we received external funding from the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. I began working full-time at Shira Medtech,” says Anand.
The Shira Clamp
In 2018, he officially launched the Shira clamp – a Rs 10 coin-sized device. During microvascular surgeries, this device is placed where the blood vessel is damaged and needs to be joined.
“The light-weight device has clamps in such a way that it holds both the open-ends of the damaged blood vessel. The vessels, which are minuscule, become difficult to operate on. However, the clamps are designed so that it holds the arteries at an angle facing the surgeon. This makes it easier for doctors to perform the surgery,” says Anand.
This device can make microvascular surgery easier to perform because the clamps currently used during the procedure do not hold the vesselsat an angle. Instead, it holds them straight further complicating the procedure.
According to their website, the Shira Clamp was first used by Ganga Hospitals in Coimbatore by reconstructive surgeons Dr Hari Venkatramani and Dr Madhu Periasamy on their respective patients.
It assisted the surgeons in anastomosing a vein and an artery in an end-to-end manner. The surgery was a success, and during the post-follow ups, the patient showed positive outcomes.
Dr Adhishwar Sharma, a reconstructive surgeon based in NCR, Delhi, was one of the Shira clamps’ early users in 2018. He says that the device is like none other currently available, and it is a game-changer in the healthcare industry.
He says, “I have been using the device at least 9-10 times every month, and it has been efficient during reconstructive surgeries. While other clamps in the market have a lifespan of only a year or so, the Shira clamp is still in good condition.”
For the future, Anand and his team are developing products that can eliminate sutures and technology that makes surgeries safer.