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Surgical technology

Calgary innovator gives surgeons a hand

CALGARY – Calgary biomedical engineer Brent King is to win a $10,000 Manning Innovation Award for inventing a unique device to accurately and securely position a surgical patient’s limb. The SPIDER Limb Positioner is excellent for specialized procedures such as rotator cuff repairs or wrist arthroscopy.

Not only does the SPIDER improve the surgeon’s ability to do delicate work, it reduces costs in the operating room. The surgeon can reposition the limb in seconds simply by stepping on a foot pedal. Staff who would otherwise need to hold the limb during the surgery are free to perform other tasks.

The SPIDER has become so popular with surgeons that many refuse to work without one. Dr. Cyril Frank is a professor and surgeon with the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Medicine. He notes that the SPIDER is “an indispensable positioning tool used around the world by thousands of surgeons on hundreds of thousands of patients.”

Boston, Massachusetts General Hospital, the Clinique Générale of Annecy, France and all of Calgary’s hospitals are among the many institutions that use the SPIDER.

King is Vice President of Operations, Co-Owner, and an engineer with TENET Medical Engineering, Inc., the Calgary, Alberta company that designs, assembles and packages the SPIDER. King developed the technology after joining TENET in 1997. The company is now worth about $8 million, with over $9.8 million in revenue for the 2008-2009 fiscal year.

The positioner is a pneumatic-hydraulic device powered by a compressed air supply. Specialized attachments make the SPIDER suitable for use in particular surgeries. Although the positioner already attaches to most surgical tables, King continues to work on expanding the technology for new uses.UK-based Smith and Nephew Plc. distributes the SPIDER Limb Positioner in over 50 countries around the world. To date, over 2,100 units have been sold.

The Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation
This year the Foundation will award $145,000 to leading Canadian innovators plus $20,000 to Young Canadians chosen at the 2009 Canada-Wide Science Fair. The Foundation was established in 1980 to promote and support Canadian innovators. This Innovation Award has been sponsored by Katch Kan Ltd. Since 1982, the Foundation has presented over $4 million in prize money. The 2009 awards will be presented at an awards gala on Friday, September 18 in Vancouver, BC.