UI Biomedical Engineers Present Senior Projects

Monday, May 5, 2014

At least one project may result in a patent

A less invasive way of performing spinal fusion surgery was just one of 22 presentations given Friday, May 2, Senior Design Day, by seniors in the University of Iowa College of Engineering Department of Biomedical Engineering.

The spinal fusion team—composed of Zachary Rasmussen of Independence, Iowa; Andrew McCurdy of Petersburg, Ill.; and Ryan Arce of Loves Park, Ill.— noted that their invention, which they intend to patent, has the potential to help many people.

They added that in 2008, auto accidents, weak spines, and various conditions resulted in more than 413,000 spinal fusion surgeries in the United States—about the same number as hip replacements.

Currently, spinal fusion requires a long, vertical incision be made to insert a transverse rod. The procedure can cause pain, damage surrounding tissue, and leave large scars.

However, these problems are alleviated by the student-devised method in which a surgeon inserts the rod and secures it in place while using several sets of short incisions.

“Car accidents, falling off a ladder, and many conditions are pretty traumatic and can require spinal fusion,” says McCurdy. “We make the surgery less invasive.”

“If someone needs spinal fusion involving three or more vertebrae,” says Rasmussen, “we have the device and materials to insert the transverse rod less invasively. In addition, patient recovery time will also be greatly reduced by the decreased tissue damage.”

In addition to the students, the project involved field mentor Dr. Patrick Hitchon, professor of neurosurgery in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, and biomedical engineering mentor Nicole Grosland, professor of biomedical engineering and of orthopaedics and rehabilitation.

Joe Reinhardt, professor and departmental executive officer in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, says that Senior Design Day is the highlight of the year, as well as an opportunity to celebrate graduation.