MacGyver Medicine Goes Mainstream

Using the make-do “MacGyver” method, emergency physician Thomas Burke designed a lifesaving kit to stop deadly postpartum hemorrhage—which causes 1 in 3 maternal deaths.

His low-tech “uterine balloon tamponade” has been deployed thousands of times and boasts a 97% survival rate. Its main innovation? Presenting its components—a checklist, a syringe, a condom, and some blue tubing—in an easy-to-use kit. The device compresses against the bleeding source and helps trigger the body’s clotting response.

Simple tools like this are ideal in low-resource environments. But more generally, they represent a long-term medical philosophy: “a bottom-up approach in a world accustomed to top-down solutions,” writes Tom Vanderbilt.

The New Yorker

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