CHICAGO — Doctors have a new medical instrument that helps to mend broken bones, reattaches tendons and ligaments and is useful in open heart, brain and plastic surgeries.
It's a stapler.
The device, called Staplizer, has been used on more than 1,000 patients and, so far, has been effective in rejoining fractures at more than 70 anatomical locations.
"The thing that impresses most people is that, where it can be used, it just makes life so much simpler," says Dr. Jules S. Shapiro, the orthopedic surgeon who invented the device.
His Staplizer may be modeled after an office stapler, Shapiro says, but it is far ahead of other technology typically used to mend broken bones.
"We're talking about screws and pins and plates, which at times can be very laborious," he says. "It's always something that takes longer in terms of operating time, and requires a significant amount of X-rays for proper placements of screws and such."
Requires Fewer X-Rays
Shapiro says the Staplizer, manufactured and sold by 3M Co. of St. Paul, Minn., is easier to use, shortens operating time and does not require taking as many X-rays as conventional bone fixation.
The results are not any better, he says, "but they are comparable, and that's really all you want."
Shapiro, who operates at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, says he got the idea for the bone stapler at an orthopedic convention about six years ago, when he noticed a skin stapler on exhibit at the 3M booth.
"I said seven words: 'Have you ever tried that with bones?' "
By experimenting with cadaver bones, Shapiro and 3M technicians developed a working model of the instrument that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration three years ago. After clinical trials on several hundred patients, 3M began marketing the Staplizer in February. The price: $6,995.
It uses titanium staples, but other than that, the Staplizer is virtually indistinguishable from the pistol-shaped staple gun that carpenters use. Powered by 100 pounds per square inch of compressed air, it delivers the staples quickly, evenly and precisely.
The Staplizer works best on tendons, cartilage and softer bone, such as is found at the ends of joints and in the wrists and ankles. It cannot be used to set an arm bone that has snapped in the middle, but Shapiro says he is surprised at how many places it can be used.
Heart, Plastic Uses
Open-heart surgeons at Rush also use the Staplizer to hold the rib cage in place while wiring it back together, and plastic surgeons use it to affix implants in the cheeks in reconstructive operations.
"The neurosurgeons are waiting for a certain size staple so they can use it to fix bone flaps in brain surgery," Shapiro says. He noted that there has been competition in the hospital for use of the Staplizers available.
"I think every hospital in the country is going to end up with one of these, and in the larger institutions, they're going to need two or three or more," he said.
Dr. Ronald Linscheid, an orthopedic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., calls it "an ingenious little device."