Health Watch: Fractured Bones Breakthrough

A procedure that has troubled doctors for years may have a solution, thanks to some unlikely inventors. Five undergraduate students at Rice University created a medical device that allows doctors to fix fractured bones in less time, using fewer x-rays.

Ashvin K. Dewan, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital has been there. A patient is in the ER. And he's called in to fix their broken femur. It's a rush against time: "So the stress is building."

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But when it comes to a long bone surgery, time isn't on his side. The surgery involves placing a rod in the patients leg and securing the rod through a hole at the bottom. That means drilling blind through hard bone.

"It's kind of like threading a needle with thread, but the only differences you're trying to thread the needle from 50 feet away," said Dr. Dewan.

Currently doctors use a series of x-rays to help them find the hole in the rod but it's a time-consuming process.

Dr. Dewan said, "As I'm taking these multiple x-rays the pressure is mounting."

It exposes patients and staff to more radiation. And then there's the risk of missing.

"I was just like there needs to be a better way to do this," Dr. Dewan said.

So Dr. Dewan turned to an unlikely group: five undergraduate students at his alma mater, Rice University.

"It was many, many weeks of getting better and better and better," said Ian Frankel, a Rice University Senior and Mechanical Engineering Major.

The students invented a device that locates the hole in the rod by detecting magnetic fields.

Dr. Dewan believes it could shorten the process by 60 to 80 percent saving valuable time.

When it matters most.

Dr. Dewan said, "So I think that's a substantial improvement in the existing process and I think it really could benefit the patient."

Two of the students will continue developing their device after graduation. They hope to apply for FDA approval after that.
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