EZ‐Tract Retractor Blade System:
Medical Product Prototyping (BIOENG
2171) is a course in which students get the opportunity to put the tools they learn
in Medical Product Ideation (BIOENG 2150), Medical Product Development (BIOENG 2151) and Clinical Bioengineering (BIOENG
2170) to use. This course is a perfect example of the learning-by-doing
ideology followed by the Center for Medical Innovation in its graduate
programs. The prototyping process not only helps the students put the skills
they develop during the MPE program to practical use, making it an exceptional
educational exercise, it also helps them contribute to “improving medicine, one
life at a time”.
The SenTech team is made of three
students, Nick Scangas (MS-MPE), Mathew Niesslein (MS-MPE) and Margaret Evans (MS-MPE).
The EZ-Track Retractor Blade System was presented during the Design Expo of Fall
2014 and won the Best Overall Project award as well as Best Project award in
Finding the unmet clinical need
was the first step of the process. This was done in the Clinical Bioengineering
course. Students performed ethnographic research in Cardiology, Neurology, Intervention/Investigatory
and Orthopedics specialties by observing various clinical procedures. After
observing an anterior cervical discectomy infusion, followed by extensive
ideation, a clinical need for minimizing the time of placing and replacing
retractor blades in the operating room setting was identified.
Currently, when a surgical
incision is made, a retractor is used to hold the top layers of tissue back to
gain access to the afflicted internal organ or tissue. The length of retractor
blade changes throughout the surgery as the surgeon cuts into deeper tissue to
be able to hold all the layers of tissue out of the way, this requires the
surgeon to keep changing the blade depending on the required blade length.
The aim was to come up with a more
efficient surgical retractor system that would minimize the time required to
get the appropriate length retractor blade. After 3 months of brainstorming, self-reflection
into the problem, ideation and several rounds of prototyping, Team SenTech
proposed a user-friendly, easy to sterilize retractor system that allows the
surgeon to adjust the length of the blade during the procedure without needing
to remove and replace the blade during surgery. The prototype was produced in a
stage-gate process, following a series of focused steps.
In the working prototype
produced, one of the knobs on the top of the retractor extends the lower half
of the retractor, increasing the length, through the use of a driving mechanism
and a gear box. This allows the physician’s assistant or the resident to extend
the retractors to hold back tissues as the surgeon stays focused and continues
Apart from engineering the design
of the prototype, the team also developed a business plan for their product,
based on knowledge acquired in Medical Product Development course. With initial
investment, Team SenTech hopes to bring the EZ- Tract Retractor Blade System to
commercialization and improve the speed of surgery throughout the world.
Following is a video prepared by Team SenTech:
Author: Yash Mokashi, CMI Fellow