BY Tricia Rodewald
Between the buzzing of drills, the humming of various imaging machines and the cacophony of product demonstrations in AAOS’ 2012 technical exhibits hall, it’s apparent that orthopaedic innovations are alive and well. Thousands of medical technology professionals have come together to not only promote their products and services, but to also gather insights from the medical professionals about ways to continue improving patient outcomes.
From hardware to software, orthopaedic technology companies are striving to respond to market demands to make products more effective, ergonomic, economical and patient-focused. We got the opportunity to speak with a few companies whose orthopaedic offerings demonstrate that they are paying close attention to these issues.
Brainlab, a developer, manufacturer and marketer of software-driven medical technology recently launched Curve, a platform for image-guided surgery. The product is inherently designed by surgeons and addresses many of the challenges and needs they have in the operating room, from 3-D imaging to multidirectional touch terminals and live navigation streamed over a secured network.
Brainlab is also launching their iPod touch navigation system, DASH. Brainlab’s DASH uses advanced Apple technology along with Brainlab’s software to give surgeons a simple, easy-to-use handheld navigation device for orthopaedic procedures.
“Software is becoming integral to a surgeon’s ability to efficiently and effectively improve patient outcomes, and do so cost-effectively, says Ken Bruener, Brainlab’s director of marketing. “Across the board, capital budgets have been shrinking. The nice thing about our new platforms is that they are all integrated into our cloud system so there’s no infrastructure purchase requirement. This significantly reduces the expense for a hospital or surgical center, while increasing the surgeon’s access to detailed, comprehensive information.”
|MicroAire's new driver at AAOS 2012.|
There’s been a great deal of enthusiasm about MicroAire’s unitized wire driver designed specifically for a hand and foot surgeon. What makes this device unique is its small size, light weight and sleek, ergonomic design. The driver currently used by surgeons is heavy and bulky, making procedures tiresome and less efficient.
“Currently, to drive k-wires, there’s a wide range of wires that need to be used. Most of the technology out there requires two different coupling mechanisms to drive wires from the smallest size to the biggest size,” explains Pam Strombeck, product manager of orthopaedic power instruments at MicroAire. “We were able to develop a new technology that allows this device to go from the bottom of the range to the top so that you only need one device. Right now, most surgeons need two to do anything similar.”
MicroAire’s new driver is also ambidextrous giving the surgeon the ability to move forward, in reverse and oscillate all with one hand. When a doctor is compressing a fracture of tiny bones, this feature is beneficial because the surgeon won’t need to let go of the bone or require the assistance of a scrub nurse in order to flip a switch or push a button.
“After working on this device for a few years, it’s exciting to finally have it available and to hear such positive feedback from the end user,” shares Strombeck. “In fact, the word many surgeons are using to describe this device is ‘sexy,’ which is so fun for me to hear!”
Injection molding is another innovative growth area when it comes to orthopaedic device design. Medical device original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) who’ve worked with Paragon, a supplier of cases & trays, surgical instrumentation, and implantable components, have found that leveraging injection molding has allowed their products to be more cost-effective while maintaining high quality standards.
“Because there’s additional costs associated with tooling requirements, many companies have been hesitant to modify their processes to integrate injection molding,” notes Jenna Ross, senior business development engineer/project manager for Paragon. “But when you have the talent to be able to design instruments with injection molding applications, the long-term cost savings is considerable.”
And for OEMs trying to get their products into hospitals and medical centers, high-quality and low cost can open a lot of doors.
Attractive, Cost-Effective Innovations
From iPad applications created specifically for orthopaedic surgeons and software that navigates where a device should be implanted, to ergonomic, “sexy” devices that make it easier for orthopaedic surgeons to perform procedures, AAOS 2012 brought innovations that accommodate the surgeon, the patient and shrinking budgets.
Tricia Rodewald is director of marketing at Pro-Dex Inc. (Irvine, CA).