Revolutionizing Surgeon Powered Robotics

A new intuitive robotic wrist-mounted needle driver – which costs hundreds, not millions – makes minimally invasive robotic surgery available to all

FlexDex Co-founder Greg Bowles

It seemed like futuristic science-fiction-come-to-life in 2000 when the FDA announced approval of the robotic da Vinci Surgical System. Surgeons could control the intuitive device from a console to facilitate complex surgery using a minimally invasive approach. Problem was, the system cost millions, only one surgeon at a time could use it (log-jamming operating rooms), and the prohibitive expense made it available only to a select few patients. However, a Michigan-based company called FlexDex is about to revolutionize the robotic surgery industry with a new intuitive mechanical wrist-mounted needle driver.

FlexDex Co-founders (l-r) Shorya Awtar, Sc.D. and James Geiger, M.D.

Intuitive Medicine
“For all surgeons who perform minimally invasive surgery (MIS), we have only had the use of basic functioning instruments called ‘straight sticks.’ These instruments allow you to enter the body through small incisions, but have limited functionality,” said Dr. Geiger, M.D., FlexDex Co-founder and CEO. “FlexDex provides intuitive control and articulation of the instrument tip within the patient. This level of functionality is currently only found on expensive surgical robotic systems, which cost millions of dollars. FlexDex costs less than a thousand dollars.

“Shorya Awtar, Sc.D. and I began a collaboration in 2007 initially somewhat by chance (along with our business Co-founder Greg Bowles), but ultimately by a common goal to bring the benefits of MIS to patients anywhere in the world. I am one of the inventors, but Shorya is a brilliant mechanical engineer who solved a problem that many others had tried but were never successful.”

Chief Technology Officer Awtar explained, “The existing laparoscopic instruments for MIS required a complicated and awkward movement by the surgeon. These instruments are counter-intuitiveand result in poor ergonomics for the surgeon. For decades, traditional laparoscopic instruments have followed a certain design architecture, which leads to the sub-optimal performance. Our goal was to reduce this burden for the surgeon so more can adopt minimally invasive (or laparoscopic) surgery and those who already perform such surgery can do so more comfortably.

“We had to completely reimagine the interface between the surgeon and the instrument. We recognized the need to mount the needle driver instrument on the forearm and create a virtual center of rotation for the instrument handle that coincides with the surgeon’s wrist,” Awtar continued. “FlexDex not only provides enhanced dexterity (or wristed articulation) at the instrument tip, its unique design allows the surgeon to control the instrument via natural and comfortable hand movements.

Initial surgical robotic systems cost millions of dollars. FlexDex costs less than a thousand dollars.

“The instrument becomes an extension of the surgeon’s hand inside the patient’s body. This helps the surgeon perform complex laparoscopic procedures with less physical and cognitive strain. Key surgical procedures that can benefit from this functionality include hernia repair, bariatic surgery, partial nephrectomy, hysterectomy, prostatectomy, to name a few.”

Response from the surgeon community proves exciting. When asked about his experience with FlexDex, Dr. Kent Bowden, a general surgeon in Cadillac, Michigan, and one of the first surgeons to transform his practice using the device, replied, “I think FlexDex will do for laparoscopy what laparoscopy did for general surgery.”

About FlexDex: FlexDex Surgical

Revolutionizing Surgeon Powered Robotics