Never underestimate the value of popular culture. Dr. Jeffrey Cadeddu, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, was watching a television show featuring teens who used magnets to hold studs on their lips instead of getting their lips pierced. Bingo! Cadeddu, an expert in minimally invasive surgery, began to think about using magnets on surgical tools during minimally invasive procedures in order to expand a surgeon's reach inside the body.
Last week UT Southwestern announced it was teaming with Ethicon Endo-Surgery Inc. to develop a toolbox of magnetically controlled surgical instruments.
Surgery via a long incision is a dying art. Now doctors are opening tiny holes in the abdomen and inserting cameras and small tools to perform a number of abdominal surgeries. Sometimes they can perform surgery using a single small opening -- called LESS, for laparoendoscopic single site surgery -- and some experimental procedures are being done using NOTES -- natural orifice translumenal endoscopic surgery that uses the mouth, anus or vagina to insert surgical instruments.
The magnetic tools are expected to advance the field even more by giving surgeons greater maneuverability. Magnets outside the body would attract magnets attached to the instruments inside the body.
"The magnetic maneuverability affords a much greater range of motion inside the abdominal cavity, allowing the surgical team to more easily position instruments in their optimum locations," Cadeddu said in a news release.
-- Shari Roan
Photo: A surgeon performs laparoscopic surgery. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times