Smart Surgical Appliances secures investment for minimally invasive surgery device

25 March 2009

Smart Surgical Appliances (SSA), a developer of medical devices to improve the safety of minimally invasive surgery (MIS), has secured a £330,000 round of investment from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA), Imperial Innovations, EF Investments, and SSA Executive Chairman Paul Donnelly.

SSA is based on research emanating from the Department of Biosurgery and Surgical Technology, within the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London. The company focuses on producing sensor-enabled technologies for minimally invasive surgery  ie keyhole surgery, endoscopic surgery and the newly emerging field of natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery (NOTES).

A limitation with all MIS procedures is that the surgeon loses dexterity and accuracy because of reduced proximity to the operative site, leading to variable success rates and intra-operative complications. SSA’s sensor-enabled instrumentation will, for the first time, provide real-time sensing and feedback from the operative site akin to ‘touch and feel’, preventing complications, improving judgement and enabling reproducibility usually associated with experienced surgeons.

SSA plans to use the investment to make further technical and regulatory progress on their lead device, the SmartBougie, an oesophageal dilator that measures the elasticity in the external walls of the oesophagus.

Adam James of SSA explained the device: “During minimally invasive surgery it is essential to know that you have dilated the area enough and are not risking rupturing tissue. SmartBougie allows surgeons to monitor dilatation more accurately than before and also allows for the opposite scenario where surgeons are 'tightening' the region during a surgical repair and want to make sure it is not too tight and not too loose.”

The primary use for the product is in two procedures that require dilatation and tightening of the oesophagus. During surgery to the oesophagus, dilatation can present patient risks, with up to 5% of procedures resulting in a ruptured oesophagus requiring further emergency surgery and often involving opening the ribcage.

A second procedure which will benefit from the SmartBougie is known as ‘Nissen Fundoplication’ — a procedure which is used to treat severe cases of acid reflux. In this procedure part of the stomach is wrapped around the oesophagus to tighten it. The current procedure has a high re-operation rate of up to 20%, because the wrap is either too tight or too loose.

In both cases, using the SmartBougie will provide the surgeon with feedback to substantially reduce negative or ineffective outcomes.

Managing Director of NESTA Investments David Hunter said: “This kind of cutting-edge technology can make a real difference to both practitioners and patients involved in this type of delicate surgery and is a great example of how early-stage investment can make a real, tangible impact.”

NESTA made a pre-seed investment in the Company in March 2008, and as part of that investment SSA were able to bring in the experience of Paul Donnelly, previously CEO of a number of successful private equity backed medical device companies, as Executive Chairman who is helping steer the company towards financial success.

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