Basic operating theatre for all

Using Delft technology to make basic surgery universally available

How can we use technology to make safe operations available for everyone? The realisation of an operating theatre for all is the dream of Jenny Dankelman, Professor of Biomechanical Engineering at TU Delft's Faculty of 3mE. Not an operating theatre for emergencies, but a basic operating theatre designed for performing basic procedures for the general public. A model that is suitable for future implementation in all developing countries.

SMART instruments
Operations on, for example, the appendix, the gall bladder or the cervix do not need to be performed by very highly qualified surgeons. Fifteen of these types of ‘basic’ procedures, however, account for no less than 80 per cent of all surgical procedures. Research conducted in Kenya and India revealed that surgical equipment should be SMART: simple, minimal (in terms of size), affordable, reliable and transparent, i.e. easy to use. The equipment also needs to be easy to sterilise and to repair, and it should ideally be possible to manufacture it locally. These requirements demand a creative, multidisciplinary approach, something for which TU Delft’s engineers are famed.

Prototype in eight years’ time 
Professor Dankelman thinks she will need eight years to set up an operating theatre for basic surgery. Developing the instruments is a relatively swift process, which should be completed within a couple of years. What takes a lot of time is training the on-site staff, teaching them how to sterilise and maintain the instruments, for example, and how to keep the operating theatre clean. After eight years, the prototype will have also been sufficiently thought-out and tested, allowing it to be easily scaled up and applied in other countries.

Support the cause!
It is partly thanks to the generous donations from alumni and other benefactors that the University Fund is able to support this programme. Your donation will contribute to making Professor Dankelman’s dream of ‘making basic surgery accessible to all’ a reality. 


Jenny Dankelman is Professor of Minimally Invasive Surgery and Interventional Techniques and Head of the Medical Instruments and BioInspired Technology section of the Biomechanical Engineering Department at TU Delft. She is also a Medical Delta Professor at Leiden University Medical Center.