medical_device

Oculostaple is a tool that is designed to restore vision in people with drooping eyelids, or ptosis. Ptosis can have any number of causes, from Myasthenia gravis (an autoimmune, neuromuscular disorder) to a stroke, a tumor, or simply old age.

It was designed by undergraduate students at Georgia Tech, Drew Padilla, Jacki Borinski, and Mohamad Ali Najia. Najia is now the CEO of the Oculostaple company.

The device works by simultaneously cutting away excess muscle and sealing up the cut that it creates. Before, correcting the issue was the result of a surgery that took about 45 minutes in an operating room. With Oculostaple, drooping eyelids can be resolved with local anesthesia in a doctor’s office, in a procedure that lasts about five minutes. It will also decrease the cost of each individual surgery by about $5,000.

Due to its impressive features, the Oculostaple recently received second place in the National Institute of Health Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams (DEBUT) Challenge. The award, given to undergraduate students, was based on the impact the new invention would have on clinical care, the significance of the problem being addressed, the ingenuity of the design, and the creation of a prototype.

It’s not widely available just yet – the Oculostaple team is working with the Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI) to create it into a marketable medical device that will eventually be completely disposable.

GCMI is a nonprofit organization that brings together players in the medical device community to help “enhance their product development, shorten time to market, and potentially achieve significant cost savings” in the process of bringing the devices to market. Oculostaple also won first place last year at Georgia Tech’s fall Capstone Design Expo, and second place at its Inventure Prize competition.

While 200,000 Americans undergo surgery to correct drooping eyelids each year, the possibilities for this new device extend far beyond helping Americans be able to see better (and drive safer). Ophthalmologists throughout the medical community are excited for the device, which will make this surgery easy to perform. As the Oculostaple website states, it “also has broad applicability in laparoscopic, gastrointestinal, and biopsy procedures.”

Imagine the possibilities in treating diseases in poorer countries with the creation of technology like this. Gastrointestinal problems are common in third world countries, as people don’t always have access to clean water. Oculostaple could mean safer, faster, cheaper, and more effective treatment for a wide range of problems.

This surgical clamp removes the problem that sometimes occurs in eyelid surgery: the doctors accidentally cut their own sutures as they are trying to cut off excess muscle. Now, both parts of the procedure can be done simultaneously.

In an interview with Charlie Bennett, Najia described the process of how the device came to be, from the beginning, running tests on microwaved pieces of chicken skin, to redesigning the concept again and again, to being halfway out of the stadium with his teammates when their first place at their school’s Capstone competition was announced. Through it all, he said, “I think it’s been a very worthwhile endeavor.”

The development of a revolutionary device is an excellent example of how people throughout the medical community are working everyday to make a healthier world. Whether they are seasoned medical professionals or undergraduate students, they can make a difference, and they are.

Emily Dieckman

Sources: Devices, NIH, Georgia Institute of Technology, News Medical, North Avenue Lounge, Oculostaple
Photo: Flickr