Author: Malene Hegenberger, practicing Clinical Specialist Midwife at Slagelse Hospital in Denmark and inventor of the Hegenberger Retractor. A certified Registered Nurse in Denmark (1998) and Certified Midwife in Norway (2002).
Innovation from clinical experience
As a midwife, it is essential to me that patients receive the best possible care. I have always enjoyed working in hospitals and healthcare environments and it is an important reminder for me that as a midwife I take care of a woman and their baby at a hugely significant moment in their lifetimes.
The satisfaction from performing a correct postpartum repair really makes my day. To finish off a vaginal delivery with the correct diagnosis, repair and normal (for the patient) looking vagina and external genital should be the standard expectation for all women. Yet, this can be very difficult to achieve. I have been fortunate enough to work as a nurse / midwife in the UK, Norway, Slovenia, Caribbean and the USA and found that the challenges facing midwifes and clinicians are universal.
For years I had difficulty inspecting, diagnosing, and managing my instruments, whilst keeping the trauma area dry of blood. I needed a third hand to hold aside the vagina and cause less manipulation for my patient, or a colleague to support during the procedure. All of this whilst continuing to look after the wellbeing and welfare of both mother and baby. I shared these experiences with my colleagues who related similar challenges and frustrations. Surely there was a better way? I researched best practice and devices to aid postpartum repair and found that despite the same issues occurring for clinicians worldwide, no one had yet solved the problem.
I wanted to.
Inventing a medical device
Mimicking an assistant, the Hegenberger Retractor is a device that helps midwives, doctors and clinicians. It enables them to suture most patients alone, without requiring additional colleagues. Once inserted into the vagina, it enables a better view of the tear for clinicians, enabling accurate diagnosis and optimal understanding of how to close the tissue and muscles in the best way for the patient. It also leaves both hands free, enabling correct suturing techniques using a needle holder and forceps, and this reduces the risk of needlestick injuries for me and my colleagues.
Lastly, I am especially proud of the role that the Retractor has in improving teaching conditions for the next generation of midwives, doctors and clinicians. It enables a greater understanding of the anatomy, visibility of different types of tissue and allows tutors and students to sit side by side and focus upon teaching and practice with both pairs of hands available, rather than a tutor simultaneously holding aside the vaginal walls, teaching and monitoring a student’s work.
The Hegenberger Retractor is our first product, but my mission is to improve the care and information available for women’s pelvic and genital health globally. Change takes time, but I believe that our Hegenberger Retractor can directly contribute to increased levels of correct diagnosis and therefore correct suturing treatment. The consequences of inaccurate diagnosis have a long-term impact upon women’s physical, emotional and sexual health, and are now avoidable.
In a few years I hope that the Hegenberger Retractor will be available as standard across the globe and that suturing women has same prestige as other procedures we perform during pregnancy and labour.
I hope that my invention can contribute to improving wellbeing and care for women. Every woman has to live with a repair for the rest of her life and we should always keep that in mind.
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