Breaking your leg is bad, but repairing a broken leg is also no picnic.
Part of the process for fixing a broken bone, at least the long bones, such as the upper arm, the shin bone or the thigh bone, is to slide a stiff titanium rod down through the marrow of the fractured bone, using the rod to line up the broken parts and keep them in place for healing.
To keep the rod stable, surgeons insert screws into pre-existing holes in the top and bottom of the rod in a procedure known as distal locking. When doing this, it’s important that the surgeon find the screw holes in the titanium rod on the first try. This is not one of those repair jobs where it’s okay to miss and start over.
Yet things do go wrong. In more than 20 percent of the cases, the rods rotate off axis just enough to change a person’s way of walking. In other cases, re-drilling is required, weakening bones and increasing the risk of a fracture.
“This is a well-known problem, looking for a solution,” says David Rich, CEO and president of Eclipse Orthopaedics, a Warsaw, Indiana-based medical device manufacturer. Rich has designed a hand-held medical device known as Radiographic Targeting Attachment (RTA) doctors can use to accurately locate the screw holes and hit them on the first try.
“Our goal is to make this process easier, faster and safer,” he says.
The RTA uses a low-wattage X-ray device that shows the physician on a tablet screen exactly where the screw holes are located. Creating this feature required image processing and software development, which is where Ventures enters the picture. Rich turned to RHV to write software to correct for image distortion, ensuring that what the doctor sees on the tablet screen is what is actually happening inside the patient’s arm or leg.
Rich is a 1986 Rose-Hulman physics and mechanical engineering major, so he was already aware of Ventures when he started work on the RTA.
“Rose-Hulman Ventures is easy to work with, especially in terms of intellectual property,” Rich says.
The RTA has been supported by a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health. The NIH is also supporting the next phase of testing, which includes learning whether doctors are willing to adopt the new technology.