How does medicine advance? If you ask some academics, they’ll tell you that only they can advance medical science. However, that’s always been fiction as most medical breakthroughs have always come from doctors innovating to solve specific problems. This morning I’d like to share how we solved a problem with our alar transverse ligament procedure.
What Is CCJ Instability and Can It Be Treated?
The head sits on the two upper neck bones, and there are strong ligaments that hold it all together. These ligaments are called the accessory, alar, and transverse ligaments. They can be injured, and we have developed a new procedure that can help these patients. See the video below to learn more:
The Alar Transverse Ligament Procedure
The procedure to treat this problem requires that we access these ligaments through the back of the throat. This presents several unique problems. First, the area needs to be visualized and cleaned. This required a special endoscope so that we could see the area and sterilize it properly. However, then a second issue presented itself: how do we keep the tongue out of the way and the mouth open while allowing the X-ray to still view the area? This means that the device can’t be metal.
We first tried an existing device that worked OK (as seen in the video above). However, we found ourselves constantly modifying the device by cutting it down. Even then, it didn’t work that well to control the tongue without obstructing the airway.
A One-Off Tool Is Needed
Surgeons have a long history of modifying existing tools or creating new ones for their own use. In this case, we hired an engineer to make a prototype using 3D printing. The result is above. It has the ability to depress the tongue and keep it out of the way, creating a much better space for us to work in. We tried it yesterday for the first time and it worked like a charm. The best visualization of the area that we’ve had in 50+ procedures.
The upshot? Solving problems to allow new therapies to help patients is what Regenexx is all about. It’s the spirit we embody every day. Advancing the field of interventional orthopedics by innovating and leading.