As we have already learned, as technology improves in the medical field, the treatment options available to patients who suffer from varicose veins will continue to expand. These veins occur in the superficial layer of the skin when these small, narrow superficial veins begin to bulge and swell due to increasing pressure put on the legs, either due to standing for long periods of time on hard surfaces or from other similar conditions, such as increased pressure on the vessels in the legs due to obesity. We have already learned that there are conservative treatments, such as compression stockings, to totally-invasive operations as part of a vascular surgical approach to cutting the veins out of the affected tissue, to the newest FDA-approved treatment known as “VenaSeal,” which pretty much glues the veins shut, forcing the blood flow to be carried through other routes, as our circulatory system is designed to do. Well, one of the more novel ideas to treating varicose veins uses a technology that is becoming more versatile and is being found to have applications in so many different industries than ever imagined: Three dimensional printing.
This device is known as the “Winch,” and is made by Polish three-dimensional company called Zorthrax. The motivation behind the device is to better stabilize very intricate operations involving laser treatment of varicose veins (www.varicoseveinstalk.com). During these operations, the “human factor,” including shaky hands, can cause the laser to move just a hair to the right or left, which creates the possibility to improperly close the vessel and even burn some of the surrounding tissue. The physician responsible for the device claims to have achieved an almost 100% success rate, while worldwide rates are somewhere around 85%. (This page has excerpts from the manufacturer, Zorthrax, including a description that likens the device to a ski lift by way of elevating the vein out and stabilizing the fiber optic laser cutting mechanism. )
Now, while these statistics are nothing short of amazing, obviously more clinical experience is needed before these are lauded as the “next best thing” in vascular surgery. There is simply not enough data available. Therefore, it is up to the innovators in the operating room, the physicians and surgeons who strive to provide the best, most cutting edge technology in order to make sure their patients receive the best possible outcome to perfect the usage and technique associated with these new devices. However, the simple fact that three-dimensional printing has found a reliable, sound, safe, and cutting-edge application in such an intricate and sensitive field as surgery is nothing short of remarkable alone.
To close, time can only improve and perfect the technique and utilization of any new surgical device. With the Winch, we have seen a direct form of innovation provide an “outside of the box” approach to eliminating as much human error as possible from the operating room. This device will undoubtedly join the robotically-assisted equipment of today in very complex vascular surgery, and will probably find its way into treating not only superficial varicosity, but also very serious, very mission-critical operations on vital vessels, such as required in operations for treating life-threatening cardiac operations, such as the aortic endarterectomy.