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HEARD ON THE BEAT / IN ORANGE COUNTY

Medical Innovation

March 16, 1998|BARBARA MARSH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In 1987, a patient at an emergency room in Encinitas nearly died when an intravenous catheter accidentally disconnected during treatment for a heart attack.

His physician, Dr. Steven Bierman, discovered the problem, tore through layers of tape securing the catheter and restored drug flow. The man survived.

But such disconnections were common--and Bierman resolved to find a better way to secure catheters. "I was very upset because this had happened too many times," he recalls.

Bierman founded Venetec International Inc. of Mission Viejo, which produces a line of devices that he says hold catheters in place better than the traditional tape method. Each consists of a thin piece of foam, with a plastic cradle on top for holding the catheter, and a strong adhesive underneath that sticks to the skin.

Venetec had sales of about $1.5 million last year, more than triple the prior year's amount, Bierman says. He expects sales will triple once more this year and the company will become profitable.

Growth depends this year on an expanding list of U.S. and European distributors that he has signed up. Among others, he recently added Tustin-based Luther Medical Products Inc., which sells catheters and setup kits for homebound patients.

David Rollo, Luther's chief executive, says the company is including Bierman's device in its kits to help ensure its catheters function as intended. "Patients keep playing with the damn things, particularly the kids. The more you can cement it down, the better."

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Barbara Marsh covers health care for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-7762 and at barbara.marsh@latimes.com.

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