The Computer-Assisted Medicine research group at Reutlingen University’s School of Informatics is working with RZ Medizintechnik GmbH to develop a special tablet that provides surgeons with data and patient information directly in the operating theatre. The idea for the development resulted from “Incisions and insights”, a unique workshop series that brings together medtech engineers and surgeons around the operating table to identify and then kick-start the innovations that are needed. The project is now receiving funding from the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The first systems are due to be available in operating theatres in 2019.
The first invitations to “Incisions and insights” were sent out in June 2016. This completely new workshop series is organised by BioRegio STERN Management GmbH in conjunction with Verein zur Förderung der Biotechnologie und Medizintechnik e. V. (Society for the Promotion of Biotechnology and Medical Technology) and the Inter-University Center for Medical Technologies Stuttgart-Tübingen (IZST). It offers medtech engineers an exclusive opportunity to join medical directors and consultants from a wide range of disciplines around the operating table and discuss medical needs. The combination of live streaming from the operating theatre and practical exercises in the operating theatre at the University of Tübingen’s Institute of Clinical Anatomy and Cell Analysis is unique. The open dialogue is intended to inspire the participants to come up with completely new ideas, instruments and methods for surgery.
“Small and medium-sized enterprises often don’t have the opportunity to talk directly to consultants,” says Andreas Banescu, from Tuttlingen-based RZ Medizintechnik GmbH. He was therefore pleased to take up the invitation to the workshop, which focused on pelvic surgery, and was able to see for himself what problems surgeons have with lighting and visualisation in the operating theatre. Whether operating endoscopically or openly, surgeons would like to have monitors that do not force them to look away from the patient but are instead positioned within their field of vision.
Following in-depth discussion, it was the idea of a tablet for direct use at the operating table that won over Prof. Bernhard Hirt, Director of the Institute of Clinical Anatomy and Cell Analysis, and Prof. Arnulf Stenzl, Medical Director of the University Department of Urology and Director of the Inter-University Center for Medical Technologies Stuttgart-Tübingen (IZST). The developers from the medtech SME are now working with medtech informatics PhD students from Reutlingen University on a tablet that features ingenious applications. Prof. Oliver Burgert from the School of Informatics is responsible for the information system, which ensures surgeons can access all the information that is relevant to them during an operation without having to turn away from the operating area. “Despite all the technology available, it’s still very common to see a note stuck to a lamp in an operating theatre,” explains Burgert. “Our software is designed so that surgeons can preselect what data, covering areas such as pre-existing conditions, intolerances and radiological images, is to be available to them and at what point during the operation. They can then easily view and use this information via a sterile-packed tablet near the patient. The system is intended not only to supply patient data but also to aid visualisation, for example during an endoscopy, and to document the entire surgical procedure where required.
The first prototypes have been successfully tested, with the first prototypical test in an operating theatre already planned for 2019. This has also been made possible by funding of 477,000 euros, with one half coming from the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts and the other 50 per cent from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The tablet instantly won over the experts from the recently announced HAW-KMU-TT programme, which aims to encourage research-oriented technology transfer between universities of applied sciences and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the region.
“Incisions and insights” is a success story that is set to continue,” insists BioRegio STERN’s Managing Director Dr. Klaus Eichenberg. “Two workshops are planned for next year – ‘Extremities and the musculoskeletal system’ on 6 February and ‘Intelligent permanent implants’ on 3 July. We look forward to many more stimulating discussions and exciting innovations.”