Preventing costly measuring errors in the OR with sensor technology

After joining the YES!Delft Validation Lab and Accelerator Program, Slam Orthopedic reached out to the Innovation Platform of Reinier de Graaf Hospital. Recognizing shared goals and synergies, they forged a collaborative partnership to drive innovation in healthcare.

The idea to start a business first pops up at an unusual time. Just Schornagel, co-founder of Delft-based start-up Slam Orthopedic, finds himself in a ski lift when good friend Job Komen mentions a trauma surgeon facing an interesting problem. He tells Schornagel that, on average, a Dutch person will break a bone twice in their life, and that trauma injuries are the leading cause of death among under 45s. What’s more, Dutch hospitals are inundated year after year with huge numbers of bone fractures that need to be treated.

The major consequences of measuring errors 

Surgery is preferred over plaster casts, as it easier on patients’ joints and means that bones heal better. In surgery, bone screws are used to hold the damaged or broken bone together, And that’s where the challenge lies for surgeons, Schornagel is told on the ski lift. 

Bones are hollow, so orthopedic screws have to be exactly the right length. Too short and you’re left with a loose screw. Too long and the screw will stick out, damaging surrounding joints and tendons. In an average procedure, surgeons use about eight screws for every bone, but to measure them, they have to rely on calipers invented in the 1940s. 

And there’s the rub. The calipers are hardly ideal for today’s minimally invasive approach to surgery, characterised by tiny incisions. As a result, snags involving the calipers are common, doing significant damage. 

After the procedure, surgeons evaluate the screws on X-rays and replace any screws that are not seated properly. Apart from being time-consuming, it also produces a lot of medical waste, especially now that the costly screws can no longer be sterilised and reused. Even minor measuring errors can have major ramifications, causing patient discomfort, swallowing up precious OR time and producing large amounts of expensive waste. 

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At YES!Delft we actively connect startups to our network of partners, municipalities and hospitals. Innovations need testing grounds and practical fieldlabs where these technologies can be tested.
More YES!Delft startups are currently working with the Reinier de Graaf hospital to accelerate healthcare innovation. Read more about these technologies in this article.

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