Solving a 100-year-old surgical quality problem with simple physics

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Minimally invasive surgery is typically a safer alternative to open surgery. Patients are in less pain, have a lower risk of infection and recover far more quickly than in traditional surgeries. However, there is one moment in laparoscopic surgery that is incredibly dangerous: incision.

Nikolai Begg, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who focuses on improving medical devices. Recently, he perfected a solution to the problem of incision with the trochar, a process accounting for nearly 50 percent of serious medical issues during laparoscopic surgery.

According to Dr. Begg, the danger with using a trochar comes the moment the tip perforates through the skin and creates an incision. In that split second, the surgeon's brain hasn't yet registered that the incision has been created, and the surgeon risks pushing the trochar too far into the body, potentially causing damage to a patient's internal organs (Dr. Begg likens the process to pushing a straw into a juice pouch).

Dr. Begg has created a mechanically simple pressure-sensing trochar that, through leveraging Newton's third law of equal forces and a spring, solves this dangerous and pervasive quality problem. The moment the patient's skin is perforated, the change in force allows the spring to retract the trochar blade, preventing patient harm.

Watch Dr. Begg speak about the problem of trochar injuries and explain the simple, yet powerful concept for his safe-surgery trochar's design in a TED talk on that organization's website.

More Articles on Quality and Infection Control:
Patient Safety Tool: NPSF's Checklist for Getting the Right Diagnosis
CDC Releases Safe Injection Videos
Health IT and Patient Safety: 5 Things to Know


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