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Surgical Accident Sparks Innovation

Surgical Accident Sparks Innovation

Had the surgery turned out differently, it is very possible that Professor Ernesto Blanco of the Mechanical Engineering Department would still have been interested in the surgical instruments. As it turned out, the surgery gone awry guaranteed that Blanco would modify the instrument at fault. The trocar is used in endoscopic, minimally invasive surgery to make the initial puncture through skin. Once a hole has been made, other instruments can be inserted within the puncture and used to complete the surgery.

In Blanco’s surgery, the trocar cut too deep due to the change in resistance once the skin had been pierced. Because the endoscopic surgery had to be truncated after the slip of the trocar, Blanco needed an open surgery. This resulted in a longer hospital stay, stitches (which incidentally inspired another invention) and an increased risk of infection.

The trocar Blanco has designed should, however, be able to sidestep these problems by addressing the initial difficulty of piercing the skin without injuring organs. The new design is shaped in an hollow X rather than the traditional solid V. The new design always has a protective guard on the blade within the body, a major improvement on trocars that can plunge 3/4 of an inch in the body before the safety guard is deployed.

In addition, the new trocar removes a step in endoscopic surgeries by filling the body cavity with carbon dioxide in order to separate organs from the abdominal walls. A patent has been applied for the device, which will take approximately a year to arrive on the market.

-- Jane Maduram