Campus & Community

Innovative Device Aids in Removing Knee Implants

Students at Stevens Institute of Technology have developed a novel device to aid surgeons in cutting through bone and bone substitutes in order to remove knee implants. Sponsored by Stryker Orthopaedics, the device is referred to as a "Primary Knee Component Removal System." The student design team also tied for first place in the Stevens 2011 Research and Entrepreneurship Day Student Elevator Pitch Competition, in which students deliver and are judged on a 2-minute sales pitch for their project.

The device, affectionately referred to as a "slingshot" for its Y-shape with a band running across the top, was crafted by a Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering collaboration with students Amith Nayak, Karl Flores, Corey DiBenedetto, Mohamed Abuouf, and Matthew Nebesny. The group’s advisors were Mechanical Engineering Distinguished Industry Professor Richard Berkof and Biomedical Engineering Industry Professor Vikki Hazelwood.

"This multi-disciplinary team did an excellent job from their beginning ideas to the continuing refinements and improvements at the very end," says Dr. Berkof. "This project illustrates that Stevens is a significant contributor of innovative biomechanical device designs to the growing medical device industry."

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The slingshot not only gives physicians greater control, but its unique shape also allows them more freedom in surgery. "The unique shape allows it to access parts of the knee that were previously inaccessible by other instruments," explains Amith. "This is a huge advance in knee replacement."

The device comes at a critical time, as aging baby boomers will likely turn to knee revision surgery to enhance their quality of life. About 40,000 knee revision surgeries take place annually in the United States, a number that is expected to increase by 600 percent in the next 20 years.

"We are proud of Team Slingshot's achievements," says Dr. Hazelwood. "They have demonstrated what motivated students can accomplish in SIT's unique curriculum, where a multi-disciplinary senior design team may be assembled, connected with a corporate partner, and guided by practicing clinical experts to solve a 'real-life' [medical] problem."

The slingshot is mechanized, powered by an oscillating hand piece that drives the "slingshot" back and forth to cut bone. The effective cutting mechanism is based on forty years of medical research, which the team says will aid in getting approval from the FDA – a major challenge in the medical device industry.

Dr. Hazelwood, one of the key proponents of this project, comes to Stevens with years of practical industry experience that she shared with the students. Her "Translational Research in Medicine Laboratory" seeks to "translate" research done by students into real-world devices that will benefit the public. She also encourages students to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors in order to find solutions for existing needs in the medical market.

"Dr. Hazelwood has had a tremendous influence on this project," Matthew says. "She has shared her extensive biomedical industry experience with us as we fabricated this design."

The project serves as a prime example of Stevens approach to Technogenesis™, the technology transfer process by which ideas informed by engineering and science are turned into products that are introduced into the market. Through all this, students learn the business side of engineering, such as the requirements for funding, intellectual property protection, and other considerations.

"It is amazing that I had the opportunity to work on the slingshot," Mohamed says. "This is a revolutionary device, and I am proud to say that I am part of the process of creating it."