Orthopedic surgery will be using many more custom electric motors in the coming years. This is because the orthopedics and medical devices industry is expected to expand rapidly due to a fast-growing elderly population.
Coupled with this is a pressing need to develop devices that help improve quality of life for the elderly.
As a result of this growth in need, the orthopedics and medical devices industry will ultimately face new demands. But this will also help to pave the way for innovations.
Growth and Change Within the Orthopedic Surgery Industry
Currently, the U.S. has the world’s largest medical device market, and by 2023 it is expected to grow to over $208 billion. Not only is this due to the ageing of the “baby boomer” population, but also to the increase in overweight and obese individuals.
Conditions like degenerative bone disease and other orthopedic conditions have also contributed to the growing need for medical devices.
In addition, this has prompted hospitals to begin upgrading their own equipment as they become more aware of new innovations in medical and orthopedic devices. Treatment costs for orthopedic surgery are also reimbursable. This has contributed to greater adoption of surgical solutions. Taking advantage of this situation, hospitals and doctors now purchase more sophisticated, higher-priced devices. These purchases will help manufacturers increase their revenue.
There are other areas around the world that have also experienced similar growth in the medical devices industry. China and India are examples. Both have some of the world’s largest aged populations, and could benefit from these kinds of advancements. This would also help to build on the existing medical infrastructure by increasing medical tourism to these areas (since the price of procedures is mostly less expensive).
The unique combination of these factors can only contribute to the growth of the orthopedic and medical devices industry. And this will undoubtedly result in even more innovation.
The Use of Robotics in Orthopedic Surgery
Robotics seems to be the answer for some of the common issues doctors and surgeons face.
In order to meet reliability requirements for surgical tools, surgeons have for decades relied on sterilizable brushless direct current (BLDC) motors. They now rely on these same capabilities for surgical robotics.
BLDC motors are therefore a critical component of robotic surgery and robotic-assisted surgery today. This is in addition to combining the capabilities of both traditional robotics and traditional surgical tools. And all devices used in orthopedic surgery (indeed, any surgery) must be sterile, as well as be able to function smoothly and consistently despite repeated steam sterilization.
In addition to being reliable and sterilizable, surgical devices using custom electric motors must meet specific speed and torque requirements. This includes the ability to
- stay cool during operation,
- tolerate high temperatures during sterilization, and
- meet extreme positioning requirements.
With robotic-assisted devices, it’s possible to have control at the sub-millimeter level by using sensors, vision systems, haptic feedback, and 3D mapping.
These devices also require customized motion components that integrate well into the tool itself and boost performance.
Taking all of this into account, there are still pertinent concerns regarding the maintaining and preserving of sterility in the operating room in order to prevent infection, cross-contamination, and the spread of disease.
Maintaining Sterility in Orthopedic Surgery
There are a few ways these surgical devices achieve the required levels of sterilization in the operating room.
1 Disposable tools
The first is by purchasing single-use, disposable tools. These devices usually contain inexpensive motors with a relatively short lifespan, as well as plastic components. This helps to reduce complexity along the supply chain and eliminates the need to maintain each device.
However, to be effective, there must be a consistent supply of these sterile tools, which comes at a cost to the hospital. Disposable tools also greatly increase the amount of hazardous waste produced by the hospital.
2 Disconnecting inner components before sterilization
Another option is to create devices in such a way that the exposed parts can be sterilized while others are not. For example, a component may contain the motor, controller and battery pack, which the hospital staff would then remove before starting the sterilization process.
To ensure that each reprocessed tool is correctly sterilized, staff follow a special procedure. As a result, these devices need to be more durable. This is due to the constant disconnection and reconnection of the inner components from the housing.
3 Protective drapes
Protective barriers are also used to keep the surgical environment sterile. These are typically disposable plastic drapings. The drapes help keep covered components sterile, eliminating the need for repeated reprocessing. This method is generally used with large robotic devices, where it would be inconvenient and impractical to sterilize the entire device.
Robotic devices have limitations in this respect when compared to traditional surgical hand tools. For example, a motor could be physically located away from the surgical component, and therefore require a cable to connect the two together. This is simply not possible in a surgical environment, as the surgeon needs to be able to carefully control the tool.
Procedures that do not need the same kind of intensive sterilization practices (like in the dental and tattoo industries) use the same approach of a protective barrier. However, this method poses a few problems as well. Draping requires precise removal and replacement. This can cause significant delays in the operating room. Draping can also obstruct overall visibility due to its bulkiness. This could greatly impair the orthopedic surgeon’s ability to perform.
One method of sterilization that helps to solve these issues is the use of autoclaves (also referred to as steam sterilization). This process consists of exposing the devices to 100% humidity at 135C (275F) for up to 18 minutes. BLDC motors withstand the pressure of autoclaving. This makes this method – and these motors – ideal for orthopedic surgery.
Surgical devices, whether they are traditional hand tools or robotically assisted, are highly precise and demanding. However, it’s possible to meet those needs by working with motor manufacturers who have the required knowledge and experience with traditional and robotic devices.
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We design and manufacture custom electric motors for medical devices and light industrial applications. Whether it’s a small modification or a completely customized solution, we can get the job done. Call us today to learn how we can help you with our technical expertise and in-depth industry knowledge!