Bougie money

Smart Surgical Appliances, a developer of devices that improve the safety of minimally invasive surgery, has secured a £330,000 round of investment.

Smart Surgical Appliances (SSA), a UK-based developer of medical devices to improve the safety of minimally invasive surgery (MIS), has secured a £330,000 round of investment from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA), Imperial Innovations, EF Investments and SSA executive chairman Paul Donnelly.

SSA focuses on producing sensor-enabled technologies for MIS and plans to use the investment round to make further technical and regulatory progress on its lead device, SmartBougie, an oesophageal dilator that measures the elasticity in the external walls of the oesophagus.

Adam James of SSA said: ‘During MIS, it is essential to know that you have dilated the area enough and are not risking rupturing tissue. SmartBougie allows surgeons to monitor dilatation more accurately than before and also allows for the opposite scenario where surgeons are “tightening” the region during a surgical repair and want to make sure it is not too tight and not too loose.’

The primary use for the product is in two procedures that require dilation and tightening of the oesophagus. During surgery to the oesophagus, dilation can present patient risks, with up to five per cent of procedures resulting in a ruptured oesophagus requiring further emergency surgery and often involving opening the ribcage.

A second procedure that will benefit from SmartBougie is known as ‘Nissen Fundoplication’ – a procedure used to treat severe cases of acid reflux. In this procedure, part of the stomach is wrapped around the oesophagus to tighten it. The current procedure has a high re-operation rate of up to 20 per cent, because the wrap is either too tight or too loose.

In both cases, using SmartBougie will provide the surgeon with feedback to substantially reduce negative or ineffective outcomes.

NESTA made a pre-seed investment in the company in March 2008 and, as part of that investment, SSA was able to bring in Paul Donnelly as executive chairman. He was previously chief executive officer of a number of successful private-equity-backed medical-device companies.