Innovation is woven throughout surgical research and practice at the University of Michigan. Our surgeons are by nature problem-solvers, and our role as a department is to offer tools and skill-building opportunities to spark creativity and bring impactful ideas to life. Our goal is simple: to advance surgical practice and improve patient care. National leaders in surgical innovation, we work on many fronts, from developing novel devices, diagnostics and therapeutics to new digital and information technologies. The uniquely collaborative environment and vast resources at the University of Michigan make it fertile ground for cultivating new approaches and translating them for clinical use. Our culture of innovation has deep roots. From the invention of the electrocardiogram (EKG) in the 1930s to pioneering life support technology developed in the 1950s, the work of our physician-scientists continues today, changing how we practice surgery and influencing the lives of countless patients.
Our Surgical Devices & Technology Research
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Themes & Impact
Some of the inventions, currently on the market or in clinical use, by our faculty include:
- ER-REBOA™: The resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta (REBOA) catheter was developed to control hemorrhage from pelvic and abdominal injuries in combat and civilian settings. The ER-REBOA™ catheter is being used in emergency rooms in the United States and Canada.
- FlexDex: The FlexDex surgical technology platform was developed to improve surgeon ergonomics and control during minimally invasive procedures — at significantly lower cost than robotic technologies. FlexDex has earned Europe's CE Mark. In the United States, the FlexDex Needle Driver is distributed by Olympus.
- Michigan ENdoluminal lengthening Device (MEND): The MEND was developed to treat pediatric short bowel syndrome and recently received the Breakthrough Therapy designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It will soon be used to treat its first group of patients.
- Regenerative Peripheral Nerve Interfaces: These nerve impulse generators were developed for use with upper extremity prostheses for patients who have undergone amputation to improve prosthetic control and sensory feedback and reduce neuroma pain.
- QuikClot®: A hemorrhage-control wound dressing initially developed for combat and other austere environments. QuikClot is now found in U.S. military first aid kits and a next-generation product, QuikClot Gauze, has become a first-line treatment.
- Aspira® Drainage System: A pleural effusion drainage system developed for patients with end-stage cancer to use at home to avoid repeat hospitalizations.
- Hot Spot: Smart socks developed to sense when patients with diabetes are at risk of developing foot ulcers.
Innovations on the path to clinical use or commercialization:
- An artificial placenta to support extremely premature infants using extracorporeal membrane oxygenation technology
- A device and biomaterial to accelerate bone healing in patients who have undergone radiation treatment
- A novel laparoscopic retrieval and balloon dissector device for performing transoral thyroidectomy procedures
- A new multicamera laparoscopic imaging device for improved three-dimensional visualization during minimally invasive procedures
- Continual noninvasive monitoring of organ cellular function using supercontinuum laser spectroscopy
- A new implantable scaffold that traps circulating tumor cells in breast cancer to prevent metastasis
- A novel device to enrich and detect circulating tumor cells in melanoma and adrenocortical cancer using photoacoustic imaging to improve diagnostic accuracy and disease staging, guide treatment planning and identify metastatic disease early
- A material that clinicians can wear in the operating room to assess radiation exposure during fluoroscopy and other image-guided procedures
Health Information Technology
Department of Surgery faculty have developed a host of apps, including to:
- Track pain and opioid use in real time following surgical procedures
- Manage weight loss after bariatric surgery
- Track surgical assets such as stents and inferior vena cava filters used during procedures
- Detect changes in facial patterns that indicate a stroke
- Help patients catalog and monitor skin lesions to detect skin cancer
- Help patients navigate cancer treatment with patient-, disease-, and stage-specific interactions
Partnerships & Collaborations
Partnerships across campus and with the business and investment communities help our faculty translate their ideas into clinical applications and commercial products. We work closely with the College of Engineering, Ross School of Business, Center for Entrepreneurship, Office of Technology Transfer, Fast Forward Medical Innovation and many other collaborators and stakeholders.
Surgical Innovation Development Programming
The Department of Surgery collaborates with Fast Forward Medical Innovation and Tech Transfer to lead a number of programs to foster surgical device and technology development. Our eight-month Michigan Surgical Innovation Development Accelerator Course helps faculty learn key principles of innovation and entrepreneurship while moving their ideas closer to clinical impact. Every two years, finalist teams compete for the Michigan Surgical Innovation Prize, which awards between $50,000 and $500,000 to the most promising ideas. The program culminates in a "Shark Tank"-style pitch to advisors and prospective investors.