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American College of Clinical Engineering > ACCE Blog > Posts > Medical Devices through contributions from our clinical engineering colleagues, by George Johnston
October 02
Medical Devices through contributions from our clinical engineering colleagues, by George JohnstonEdit

I suspect that a lot of devices advances came about through contributions from our clinical engineering colleagues - either buy suggestions or by actual R&D development work.  I can provide two personal examples to perhaps get started something of a survey of our ACCE members to turn up more examples.  

1.  Al Starr around 1960 came into my shop along with Lowell Edwards to discuss problomes he was having with his mitral valve replacement development.  His and Edwards valve employed hinged flaps and blood pooled and coagulated around the hinges.  No dog survived for more than two hours with a valve replacement.  I happened to be familiar with the Hufnagel valve from my previous experience at NIH and suggested he uses ball valve of the Hufnagel style.  He asked me to make him one which I did.  A primitive caged acrylic ball on a teflon seat with teflon webbing for sutured attachment.  He came down a few days later to report that that dog lasted for over eight hours and thus began the development of the Starr-Edwards mitral valve replacement.  Made Starr famous and Edwards a fortune.

2.  Early catheter.  Charlie Dotter, professor and head of the U of O Med School's radiology department, was a hyper guy full of ideas.  He had a patient with a lower limb blockage and had the idea that "if we could just insert something in that vessel with an auger to break through that blockage."  So my shop gave it a try with a speedometer cable and a hand formed augur welded on the end.  And it worked.  Charlie wanted another but decided my shop prices were too high so went to Bendix Spring in downtown Portland and had them do another.  Sometime later I got called into my boss' office - furious.  Seems the auger  came loose in the patient and my boss assumed I as the fabricator was to blame.  After repeatedly saying "Bill we didn't make that one", he finally calmed down.  He was the school's business manager and I'm sure concerned about the potential liability even way back then.  Never did know what happened to the patient but that was the early beginnings of flexible catheters and of course cardiac catheters.

Contributions like this never make the news, but i'll bet there are a lot of similar stories within our ACCE community.


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