Shape Sensing | Blog

Insightful interview with Dr. Allen – Part 1

Our work in the medical devices community has allowed us to see some of the extraordinary work that is helping our industry to advance. While we certainly work hands-on to develop new products and for the industry, it is important for us to understand our work through the eyes of the experts who use them. Fortunately, we have amazing insight available to us because of Dr. Brad Allen, an internationally renowned cardiothoracic surgeon.

During his time in the industry, he has published over 100 papers, served as Chief of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery and a professor of cardiothoracic and vascular surgery at the University of Texas Medical School, at Houston, and served as Surgical Director at the Children’s Heart Institute in Houston.  He is an international lecturer and has unique and enlightening insight on how shape sensing technology benefits his industry.

We sat down with the doctor to discuss some of our most pressing questions about his work and how The Shape Sensing Company fits into it. As in all things he does, Dr. Allen did not disappoint.

How Has the Evolution of Minimally Invasive Devices Impacted You and Your Practice?

As the doctor answered this first question, it was clear that his patients were on the forefront of his mind. His primary focus was the reduction in pain that minimally invasive devices can provide. He said,

“Minimally invasive is taking a lot of the procedures that used to be done as open procedures and doing them with catheters or laparoscopically.  This means patients can go home sooner, often the same or next day and have little post procedure pain. We are doing things like closing holes in the heart and putting in new valves that in the past required a big surgical procedure and days in the hospital. ”

As he went on, Dr. Allen moved from the general to the specific, providing us with specific insight into the cardiothoracic field, and how devices like ours are making strides there.

“Vascular surgeons can now replace huge parts of your blood vessels or aorta with catheters, where years ago, we would have to take you into the operating room. A lot of lung surgery is now done through thoracoscopy, in other words, we take a camera, we put it into your chest, we can look and take out part of the lung – we don’t have to make the big incision we used to have to make.”

As he talked, it was easy to feel as though the results of these new methods were simply too good to be true. He assured us that this isn’t the case, saying,

“The thing you always want to make sure of when you’re doing a surgery minimally invasively, is that the results are just as good. You want to make sure it’s going to last, the patient isn’t going to need to keep coming back for surgery, and most importantly that it’s going to be as good as the original operation.”

What Role Does Insufficient Navigation Play in Procedural Complications?

Because our work focuses on improving navigation specifically, we wanted to know more about how our specific product might be able to make a difference in Dr. Allen’s field. To temper our curiosity, we asked about the ways in which a lack of navigation or sightlines might prevent surgeons from doing their work. To this, he said,

“It certainly depends on the procedure, but there are two parts:

1) There are complications from not knowing where you are and not getting where you need to be.

2) The speed of getting to where you need to go.

Blood vessels don’t always look like they do in a textbook within a patient, and especially when patients are diseased.  You can end up spending a lot of time getting the device or catheter where you want to get it and moving the fluoroscopy. There are surgeons who are very skilled at this, but at times it can be difficult and can really take a while.”

As Someone Who is Familiar with Fiber Optic 3D Shape Sensing, What Excites You Most About the Technology?

To gauge emotional response about our products and services, we wanted to ask Dr. Allen where he saw the most exciting potential with our industry. He said,

“There are several things that excite me about the technology. The first is that I can potentially eliminate fluoroscopy altogether, maybe have it just for a back-up. That means eliminating or reducing X-ray exposure to the patient and the hospital staff. The next is that it can speed things up- by having a 3D image I can rotate, I no longer have to move the fluoroscopy around to try to get a better view. The third advantage is that it’s universal. Fluoroscopy is universal to some extent, but it requires a tremendous amount of radiation, especially in electrophysiology.  There are newer technologies in electrophysiology which are using impedance or electromagnetic systems, but when you use these, you’re purchasing a technology for this one type of procedure. With shape sensing, you can buy one technology that can be used across the board in both electrophysiology and other types of procedures.  It’s possible you could marry shape sensing with one of these other technologies, but I think, ultimately, shape sensing brought to its conclusion could replace them.”

We are certainly hoping the same for our company, and truly believe that the technology could have wide-reaching effects for the medical industry. We have more to discuss about our interview with Dr. Allen, so watch this page for follow-up blogs that discuss other key aspects of our conversation.

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