An Innovation Path for Minimally Invasive Surgical Devices

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Collaboration among surgeons and medical device companies spurs innovation.

Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) has become the standard of care and its application continues to expand beyond laparoscopic, gynecological, urological, digestive tract, colorectal and thoracic surgeries. In 2018, the global MIS market was worth an estimated $36.5 Billion. According to a BIS Research market report, the minimally invasive surgical systems market is estimated to reach over $40.52 billion by 2025. 

MIS procedures have been proven to lower the risk of infection, reduce blood loss, pain and recovery time.  Surgeons performing minimally invasive surgery, sometimes referred to as endoscopic or “key-hole” surgery, use miniature cameras with precision optics and illumination along with specially designed tools to enter the body thru small incisions.  Live video streams are displayed on monitors and head-up displays where surgeons guide the tools during the operation.

Trends and challenges in minimally invasive surgical platforms were the topic of a panel discussion at the BIOMEDevice conference held in Boston entitled “Addressing Unmet Needs in Minimally Invasive Surgery.” The panel moderated by Daphne Allen, Editor-in-Chief at MD+DI, included local surgeons Yolonda Colson, chief, division of thoracic surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital; Denise Gee, General & gastrointestinal surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital; David Brooks, Director, minimally invasive surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; and Al Mashal PhD, Principal Engineer and Systems Architect, Medical Technology Division at Cambridge Consultants.

Technology that contributes to a better image quality is critical to surgeons.  “3D imaging and better optics” said Gee, responding to the opening question regarding challenges faced by surgeons.  Surgeons rely on visual information, making improvements in imaging optics and optical systems a priority.  Gee also added that “smaller handpieces and controls for women” should be included in future ergonomic instrument development. 

“Voice command capability” added Colson.  A surgeon’s hands are occupied most of the time during a procedure.   Exploring ways to reduce the number of cords, wires and tubing in the operation theater via wireless protocols or other means would allow more room to maneuver. 

All panelists agreed, communication between designers, developers and physicians is critical. “It is a continuous conversation” stated Colson. Taking time to develop a trusting relationship and tap into the accrued tribal knowledge among surgeons and clinicians is advantageous.  “Doctors and nurses compare and share best practices all the time” added Brooks.  He recounted how during a recent procedure a nurse informed him of technique she saw from another doctor which turned out to be useful. 

Understand the problem or unmet need you are trying to solve.  “If you do not address a clinical problem, your product will not do well” said Colson.  Don’t try to sell me a $5,000 device when the current solution is a piece of tape.  Ask yourself, is the current solution elegant and inexpensive? 

When Allen asked the panelists “what is the best way for designers and developers to reach surgeons?” Colson responded, “Knock on our door.”  But if you do, added Colson, “have a problem to solve, not a product to sell.”