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Retraction device to simplify keyhole colorectal surgery

Project Lead
Dr Peter Culmer, Colorectal HTC Engineering Lead

The technology

The clinical and patient benefits of laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery are well-known, but in 2013, only 40 percent of operations were being conducted using this technique. Many complex operations, like those for colorectal cancer, begin as minimally invasive but are changed to open surgery due to difficulties during the operation.

The Intra-Abdominal Platform (IAP) aims to address one of the major issues for surgeons conducting keyhole surgery: the ability to create space in which to operate. The IAP helps surgeons to move and hold back tissues and organs to provide a clear and safe exposure of the operative field. Inserted in a collapsed state through a keyhole incision, the IAP expands its arms like an umbrella, providing a stable internal scaffold. The arms have integral grips onto which tissue and organs can be moved and attached to open up the space required, reducing the need for multiple surgical assistants. Although it can be applied in most types of keyhole abdominal surgery, the device was initially developed for use in colorectal cancer surgery.

Our role

The IAP was developed by colorectal surgeon and HTC Clinical Director, Professor David Jayne, former HTC Engineering Lead, Professor Anne Neville and the HTC’s current Engineering Lead, Dr Peter Culmer. The University of Leeds researchers have worked with product design company Pd-m to develop the project.

The HTC has been a key player in bringing all the parties together and ensuring the project moves forward to meet funder milestones. A key event hosted by the HTC was a clinical dragon’s den where a group of over a dozen surgeons were able to feed back on the product design. This proved invaluable in shaping the design and eventual market for the product.

Next steps

The University of Leeds and Pd-m won a £400k National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Invention for Innovation (i4i) grant in 2014 to refine the prototype for manufacture and commercialisation and move towards clinical trials. The team now have a full pre-clinical prototype system, complete with supporting technical, regulatory and market information, and are actively seeking commercial partners to license and bring this exciting technology to market and patient benefit. Commercial enquiries can be directed to Project Lead and the HTC’s Engineering Lead, Dr Peter Culmer.