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Kettering U Grad Engineers Improvements for Surgeons

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FLINT — Kettering University alumna Shar Puskala designs devices to make surgery better for patients.

She led the team at CareFusion, a Chicago medical device company that developed disposable laparoscopic scissors that are compatible with the company’s newly launched take-apart instrument line.

The disposable laparoscopic scissors are currently in a limited-market release. The laparoscopic scissors project took Puskala two years to develop and had special meaning for her because they are the same type of scissors that would have been used to cut the cystic duct in a laparoscopic cholesysectomy (gall bladder removal surgery) that her mother had a few years ago.

Puskala said the patient benefit is that the scissors are electrosurgical, so having a disposable shaft provides a fresh insulation and sharp scissors with every use. Each instrument is inspected prior to sale to ensure that the scissors cut both electrosurgically (through high-frequency monopolar energy) and mechanically. The scissor tips themselves can cut through a variety of tissues.

Additionally, the scissors extend the company’s take-apart platform, which is easy to assemble and disassemble and provides visual confirmation to help ensure the instrument is clean, she said. Additionally, the ergonomic handle reduces the stress on the surgeons’ hands, which is a benefit during long procedures.

“Interestingly, the polyolefin material used as insulation for our scissors is the same material that is universally used as insulation for wires for electricity. This insulation, prior to being implemented in this design, was tested to ensure biocompatibility,” said Puskala.

“Because these scissors are disposable, our challenge was that we had to do a lot of research to determine what was required for one full surgery, while balancing over-design, which can lead to higher costs,” she said. “That means we had to walk a fine line between reliability for the entire surgery and over-performance, which can drive up costs,” she added.

Puskala is a 2001 graduate of Kettering University and serves on Kettering’s Mechanical Engineering Department Industrial Advisory Board.

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