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Lower Surgical Hand Tool Costs Without Sacrificing Reliability

March 23, 2021

Lower Surgical Hand Tool Costs Without Sacrificing Reliability

Surgeons worldwide have come to favor advanced surgical hand tools for their effectiveness and successful patient outcomes. In order to keep costs in check, these sophisticated tools are re-used many times. In between procedures, the tools require steam sterilization, or autoclaving. While Tier-I surgical centers can afford frequent re-use of premium surgical tools, this model is often too expensive for smaller-scale Tier-II and Tier-III operations. However, the right motor can allow designers to create affordable surgical tools with high quality and durability. 

Surgical Hand Tool Design

Without a cost-effective, high-performance motor option available, some surgical hand tool designers will select a motor that cannot survive sterilization. Unlike other electrical components that the tool designer may be able to protect, a motor has a shaft that passes through it which can allow moisture to reach sensitive electronics. This pathway is especially vulnerable to pressurized steam, and prevention strategies present additional problems.

For example, designers can add protective sealing in the hand casing, but this creates bulkier tool designs that do not withstand the autoclave. Another alternative is to avoid sterilizing the motor by placing it in a part of the tool that is protected from contamination during surgery and then removing it prior to sterilizing the hand tool. However, this approach is generally considered less safe because contaminants can still reach the motor via the coupling to the drill or saw bit.

Look for Motor Suppliers with Surgical Hand Tool Experience

A motor supplier with experience in the autoclavable surgical hand tool industry knows how to seal the electronic portion of the motor from the rotating shaft — a measure that cannot be performed at the tool level. By choosing a motor supplier without this experience, the cost savings of using a non-autoclavable motor are usually offset by higher development costs, as well as increased costs elsewhere in the tool. Costs also extend to hospitals who must either risk cancelling surgeries while replacing a failed tool or purchase extra tools as backups.

Regardless of the number of cycles the tool is designed to last, the best way to achieve high safety and reliability for the life of the tool is to use a motor that incorporates autoclave resistance features. For tools designed for Tier-I markets, high-end motor options will include all the necessary material choices and sealing required to maximize the life of the tool through repeated autoclave sterilization. But for tools targeting Tier-II and Tier-III markets, a motor that offers a selective combination of autoclave resistance features will deliver the best outcomes and lowest cost per surgery.

Partner Early with Your Motor Vendor

That’s why it pays to partner with a full motion solution provider with experience in the surgical hand tool market. An ideal supplier will offer a broad range of options not only for motors, but also gear heads and controllers covering various life targets and cost limits. To best take advantage of the provider’s full breadth of products, customization capabilities and design consultation expertise, be sure to collaborate with them at the concept or even ideation stage of device development. The result: cost-sensitive surgical centers will be able to deliver top-of-the-line care that saves more lives and improves outcomes for more patients.  For more information, contact an engineer.