The New York Times has an interesting article on Physcient, a startup medical company that wants to reinvent surgical instruments by integrating advanced electronics and robotics. Hand-held surgical instruments for the most part have not changed for decades and Physcient wants to apply biomechanical priniciples to create smarter instruments that reduce iatrogenic damage and speed up recovery.
First up is the thoracic retractor, or rib spreader, the rather brutal instrument surgeons use to open the sternum and thoracic cavity. During these procedures, immense pressures are built up that can lead to rib fractures or other damage to nerves, joints and ligaments. Physcient has build a better and more gentle retractor, based on knowledge of physics of bone and other tissues. The Assuage Smart Retractor uses two rows of curved metal hooks instead of straight metal bars, each of which can independently cradle a single rib or part of the sternum. The retractor smoothly opens by a motor instead of being jerked open by a hand crank. But the smartest part is that the device detects soft popping sounds that occur before a rib is about to break and then automatically, in an instant, decreases the force that is applied to that specific rib, preventing nearly all rib fractures.
For the full story, starting with fish-like tails that left the company’s founders as defense contractors, to the current mission to reinvent the surgical toolbox, head over to the link below.
Company homepage: Physcient…
(hat tip: Bernard Farrell)