Many of the medical technologies that we cover are surgical tools, from cutting-edge robotic systems to minimally invasive laparoscopic procedures. The ancillary tools that support these devices are often not “cool” enough to warrant their own articles. This post is different because it focuses on the light source that illuminates the tiny surgical fields.
To learn more about the field in general and one company and product in specific, we spoke to the CEO of Invuity, a firm founded in 2004 by an orthopedic surgeon and optical engineer, and which specializes in “sophisticated optical technology to provide surgical access and brilliant illumination for deep incisions.”
Shiv Gaglani, Medgadget: Can you discuss the current state of surgical illumination and why existing technology may be inadequate?
Philip Sawyer: There has been a rapid transition from open surgeries towards minimally invasive and less invasive surgeries. As surgeries have become less invasive and incisions have become smaller, it has become very difficult for surgeons to see using their headlamp or overhead lights. Overhead lights are ineffective for small incisions and headlamps are cumbersome, create shadows and glare, and pose ergonomic issues for surgeons. On-field fiber optic lighting is another option, but it is a point-source light resulting in ineffective illumination of the surgical cavity. In contrast to our Eigr technology, fiber optics also present a thermal hazard, potentially damaging critical structures such as skin, nerves, vessels and other tissue or igniting surgical drapes.
Medgadget: Apart from orthopedic procedures, what types of procedures – both specifically and generally – can your technology be applied to?
Sawyer: We currently sell our products primarily into the following specialties-spine, orthopedics and breast and thyroid oncology and plastic surgery. Eigr technology is applicable to any surgical procedure which requires better illumination and visualization within the surgical cavity.
Medgadget: What wavelength(s) of light are you shining on the surgical field? How do you avoid overheating?
Sawyer: Our products currently work in the visible spectral range, although we are not limited to that entire portion of the spectrum or its segments.
Thermal management is an integral part of our core intellectual property. We utilize a proprietary optical polymer with solid core technology, which is optically efficient and projects thermally cool illumination. Our Eigr technology incorporates hundreds of microstructures, which act as lenses to direct and shape illumination broadly and uniformly within the operative space. The combination of our solid core optical polymer and broad surface area of the waveguide enables it to extract light and project thermally cool illumination and thus, avoid the thermal challenges inherent with traditional point source fiber optic lighting.
Medgadget: How far in the future are you looking with your R&D? For example, your website lists oncology as an application. Have you explored illumination that can specifically visualize fluorescent antibodies bound to malignant cells?
Sawyer: We have a number of short and long-term R&D projects in the pipeline to address a broad spectrum of clinical applications across numerous surgical specialties. These new products will be commercialized over the next few years. Some of these products are procedure enabling and others have more universal clinical applications. It is premature for us to publically discuss the specific product applications.
Medgadget: How did you get involved in this space, and how did Invuity come to be?
Sawyer: I became involved in the medical device space early on in my career when I worked at Stryker. In 1993, I co-founded a company called Fusion Medical Technologies which developed and commercialized a hemostatic sealant called FloSeal. The company went public in 1996 and was ultimately acquired by Baxter. FloSeal now represents over than $500M in annual business for Baxter.
Invuity was founded by an orthopedic surgeon and an optical scientist to address the unmet need for effective and safe on-field surgical illumination for minimally invasive and minimal access surgery.
Medgadget: Can you discuss the names behind your company, Invuity, and the Eigr product?
Sawyer: Invuity is the name of the company and Eigr is our core technology brand. The name Invuity is intended to evoke “view” as in visualization and “In” for illumination in the incision. Eigr is our unique technology brand.
Here’s a video showing off the company’s Eigr soft tissue retractor:
Link: Invuity website…