TECHNOLOGY developed in Limerick could help avoid the type of health scare seen at Beaumont and Crumlin hospitals in recent weeks.
Instrument contamination is at the heart of HSE investigations into the incidents but a company based in Raheen has designed single-use saws, drills and other tools which orthopaedic surgeons simply dispose of after the operation.
OrthoTools-SU is a division of Takumi Medical, the company founded by Gerry Reynolds and Eddie Byrne in 1998 and which now employs almost 50 people. It was set up in 2010 after the company “identified a market for single-use power tools across Europe and beyond”, said sales director Roger Crane.
“While there were a couple of offerings already on the market, physicians had reported that they were both prohibitively expensive and not of a quality that they could work with. Takumi Medical have worked with all of the world’s leading orthopaedic companies and were therefore well-placed to develop a system that met the requirements of the most demanding surgeons. We are very proud that the entire OrthoTool-SU range is manufactured at our factory in Limerick. Takumi continues to operate successfully in our core business arena of sub-contract manufacturing where we employ 47 people at our plant on the Raheen Business Park,” he said.
While the product range is for orthopaedic surgeons, Mr Crane said the company was aware of interest from cardiovascular specialists in the manufacture of a breastbone saw.
“Heart surgeons are, like all other surgeons, very concerned about avoiding infection in their patients from cross-contamination derived from dirty instruments,” he said.
Beaumont Hospital is assessing other patients operated on with the same instruments used on a patient confirmed to have Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD).
A helpline attracted 1400 worried calls but the HSE said it had contacted no more than 20 people to inform them that there was a small risk they had contracted the degenerative brain disease.
At Crumlin Children’s Hospital, it was concern over the possible contamination of a colonoscope that led to the parents of 18 children being contacted about an infection risk. It turned out the HSE had contacted the wrong patient cohort over the wrong instrument. The 18 were reassured but another seven families then had to be contacted about the incident.
HSE boss Tony O’Brien described developments at Crumlin as “a catastrophic failure of the incident management process”.
Single-use instruments across disciplines would obviate the need for such investigations and the attendant stress to patients and doctors. Mr Crane said that while hospitals and surgeons were diligent about sterilising tools, no system was foolproof.
“I have seen a number of multi-use power tools that have been disassembled after a couple of years use. On each occasion the biological debris that had accumulated inside the power tool was quite considerable. While the efficacy of sterilisation is very good most of the time, even a minute particle of blood or bone could lead to infection issues in other patients down the line,” he said.
“The very nature of multi-use power tools means they can not be taken apart and cleaned thoroughly after every procedure.”
As well as reducing the risk of infection, the instruments can also cut costs the health providers, according to Mr Crane.
“Reusable power tools generally have a very good build quality. However, they can be very, very expensive for hospitals to buy, running to tens of thousands per tool. OrthoTool-SU places very little burden financial burdens on hospitals. Our tools start at as little as €90 and require no necessity to be sterilized, which is also a very expensive procedure for hospitals.
“OrthoTool-SU has to comply to the very strictest of European medical device guidelines so, after three years of development, it has only just been launched. Even so, we have already had sales in the UK, Denmark, Kuwait and Egypt and are in the process of setting up distributorships across the globe. Takumi Medical are very excited to be manufacturing a truly international medical product that safeguards patients and offers surgeons a high quality product at a fraction of the cost of a reusable device.”