Cutting up bones

New devices are being developed that could improve the accuracy of bone surgery, including operations on the skull, teeth and limbs.

Dr Andrea Cardoni of the University of Glasgow’s Department of Mechanical Engineering is working with Mectron Medical Technology to develop a new range of ultrasonic cutting devices that could replace the old fashioned instruments still used in bone surgery today.

He explained: “Most instruments used to cut bone in surgical theatres have changed very little in the last 100 years. If a surgeon needs to amputate a patient’s leg devices very similar to that of a common saw would still be used”.

These archaic instruments are not only cumbersome but can be ineffective for cutting bone which needs to be rejoined. Due to the force required to cut the bone there can be an increase in temperature which causes cells in the bone to die meaning the two pieces will not be able to re-fuse.

Dr Cardoni continued: “Mectron Medical Technology have developed a device which uses high power ultrasonics which causes a scalpel to vibrate at high frequencies making it much easier and more accurate to cut bone. However, this device is currently only applicable for surgery to the face and jaw, it is not accurate enough for more extensive surgery.”

Dr Cardoni is investigating ways to ensure these devices remain stable when adapted for more complex surgery.

“The tiny vibrations of the scalpel can sometimes cause the knife to twist instead of staying on a straight line. This could cause serious damage to the bone and surrounding tissue if it were to happen during surgery. My research will develop ways to prevent this so that this technology can be advanced to other areas of bone surgery, making it more accurate and effective.”