Surgeons at UC Davis have developed an implantable device that allows a tonsil cancer survivor with a severe swallowing disorder to manually open the esophagus.
Details from UC Davis:
The patient, a Uruguayan physician and a cancer survivor who sought help from UC Davis swallowing experts, came to Sacramento in mid-November for a series of tests and evaluations as follow-up to the implant surgery that took place last summer. Peter Belafsky and Gregory Farwell, both professors of otolaryngology, had traveled to South America in August to perform the unique implantation. With the assistance of Uruguayan medical colleagues, they monitored their patient long distance while waiting for the incision site to fully heal.
After checking the patient’s swallowing control and capabilities using the X-ray technology of a fluoroscope, Belafsky pronounced the experimental device a qualified success and one that could offer a much-needed treatment option for tens of thousands of patients with swallowing disorders known as oropharyngeal dysphagia.
“We’ve developed an earring-like stud that extrudes about a quarter-inch above the skin, much like a body piercing,” said Belafsky, who directs the Voice and Swallowing Center at UC Davis and spent five years developing the device. He designed it to more closely resemble an earring post after taking his two daughters to get their ears pierced.
“By attaching a tiny titanium rod to a postage stamp-sized plate that we’ve sewn into the neck cartilage, we’ve enabled our patient to safely and without pain pull on the device to move his larynx forward and open the esophagus to allow food and liquid to pass,” said Belafsky. “It’s the first time a person has been able to manually control the entryway to the esophagus.”
At a hospital in Uruguay’s capital of Montevideo, Belafsky and Farwell sutured the t-shaped titanium device into the cricoid cartilage during a 45-minute procedure. They required that he wait several months before attempting to use the device to ensure the incision site fully healed and the device was well-integrated into cartilage located just above the thyroid gland in the throat.
Using a UC Davis technology transfer grant, which supports medical technology development at the university, Belafsky settled on a design for the tiny device after creating and testing several prototypes. He originally developed a version that used magnets before arriving at the current design for manually controlling the upper esophageal sphincter.
Full story: UC Davis surgeons test innovative device in patient with swallowing disorder …
(hat tip: Gizmag)