Dr. Oswaldo Borraez, Trauma Surgeon

Most of you will never meet Dr. Borraez, a trauma surgeon at hospital San Blas, one of the public hospitals in the poorest neighborhood in Bogota, but now you will have heard about him.  In March of 1984, when he was a second year surgical resident Dr. Borraez , training at San Juan de Dios, Dr. Borraez was assisting in a surgical case with a patient that had a serious infection preventing closure of the abdomen.

Dr. Oswaldo Borraez, Trauma Surgeon, The Bogota Bag

(In cases of severe abdominal trauma, infection or necrosis closure of the abdomen can lead to the patient’s death due to compression of the abdominal compartment – leading to a sequelae of abdominal compartment syndrome —> internal organ hypoperfusion —-> organ failure  —-> respiratory distress —> death.  So basically all the swollen abdominal organs crush the blood vessels and other structures..)

During this case, the attending surgeon and the other operating room staff were looking for something to use to close the abdomen*.  Sometimes surgeons used sterile operating room towels but that increased infection and allowed for massive fluid losses, and the synthetic films were prohibitively expensive (and not without their own problems.)

So while he was in the OR, Dr. Borraez spies the IV bag, and starts thinking.. He then took the largest bag made (a urology fluid bag – 3 liters) sterilized it, and placed it in the abdomen.  And it worked – perfectly, as if it had been designed for that purpose..  It was clear, which allowed surgeons to monitor the wound, it was hypoallergenic, it prevented infection, it’s strong yet flexible and most of all – it was cheap (about 2 dollars) and available in any hospital – world-wide.

Since then, he has been recognized internationally for its use, especially after noted Atlanta trauma surgeon, Dr. David Feliciano came to Bogotá and saw this technique in use.  He wrote about it in standard American trauma textbooks used worldwide, gaining some well deserved recognition for this kind Bogotá physician, who continues to work and innovate (for the last 27 years) in this humble hospital serving Bogotá’s neediest patients.

He now speaks at conferences world-wide, talking about the Bogotá bag – and different ways it is now being used.  Hundreds of research studies and case reports have confirmed his findings.  His contribution was recognized as one of Colombia’s top ten innovations in Medicine, along with the Hakim valve (which we mentioned in another post.)

He has successfully used the Bogotá bag as a permanently implanted internal closure device (placed between the muscle and the intestines) in 55 patients with no problems.

He continues to innovate for more affordable and practical wound closure devices.  Currently, he has adapted a colostomy bag, along with a natural sponge and a suction canister as an effective wound-vacuum closure device, which mimics the success of the cost-prohibitive ‘wound vac’ (KCI) but only costs about a dollar to implement.  (Wound vacs can be several hundred dollars per day of use.)

Yet, somehow, in between seeing patients, surgery, creating affordable solutions and teaching residents – he found time to sit down, explain all of this to me – and show me several patients with their “Borraez bag” in place.

* a temporary measure until swelling / infection subsides and allows for surgical closure.

In other news, I want to say hello to one of ‘my patients’ – (I know he is reading this) Cristian, a very nice thoracic surgery patient that I met during rounds one day.  I tried to take a picture (he was very gracious and granted permission instantly) to show what a great guy he was – I met him as he was walking down the hall, chest tube canister in one hand,  and puffing on his incentive spirometer in the other.)

He, too, made time for me, a strange American nurse, speaking bad Spanish – to answer my questions and tell me all about why he was walking the halls and puffing on this little box.. He gave me a tour of the hospital while we walked, and he puffed intermittently, as I thought about how everyone, doctors, nurses and patients have been so welcoming to me here.  This kindness has certainly made this project not only possible, but a wonderful experience, that I will greatly miss when I return to the USA in a few days.

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