Deep-Tissue OCT Surgical Probe Wins 2016 Dare-to-Dream Medtech Design Challenge

Posted in Design Services by mthibault on November 1, 2016

Judges chose the idea of a deep tissue surgical probe with OCT variable tuning as the winner of this year’s Dare-to-Dream Medtech Design Challenge.

Marie Thibault

A device focused on expanding the applications of optical coherence tomography (OCT) is the winner of the 2016 Dare-to-Dream Medtech Design Challenge.

The entry, Deep Tissue Probe with OCT Variable Tuning, would enable OCT to be used deeper within the body to diagnose and treat medical issues. The idea was submitted by Thomas Mowery, who explained that in his 38-year career as an anesthesiologist and pain management doctor he had “performed thousands of ‘blind’ interventions” with “inevitable failures.”

Mowery wrote that although OCT is currently used in imaging and tissue visualization of shallower areas like coronary arteries and the gastrointestinal tract, his dream device would “capture the OCT signals at a surface focal point and extend its diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities deep into the anatomy of animals and humans.”

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“It expands the use of OCT for a number of pain management procedures where medications are administered into the potential spaces around the spinal cord (e.g. into the intrathecal or the epidural space),” said judge Stephanie Kreml, MD, chief medical officer for Accordion Health. “While ultrasound and fluoroscopy are sometimes used, many times physician rely on tactile feedback as the needle pierces through the ligaments and dural layers surrounding the cord to make sure they are entering the right space. Integrating OCT into the needle tip could allow the physician to visualize these layers and prevent the needle from advancing too far.”

An image of the dream device winner.

Mowery also made an economic case for the OCT deep tissue probe, pointing out that more accuracy could potentially improve outcomes, reduce risk, and make surgical procedures less invasive, cutting costs.

Wende Hutton, a Dare-to-Dream judge and general partner at Canaan Partners, said, “The integration of OCT quality imaging at the end of minimally-invasive instruments could be a true breakthrough in the context of minimally invasive exploratory and complex procedures.”

Although the Deep Tissue Probe with OCT Variable Tuning wins the grand prize of $500, first runner-up Smart Active Biopsy Capsule and second runner-up Avalier Pharyngeal Reinforcement System were close behind and will receive $250 and $100, respectively.

The Smart Active Biopsy Capsule, intended to be swallowed by the patient to take a gastrointestinal microbe sample non-invasively, was submitted by Jay McCoy. The Avalier Pharyngeal Reinforcement System, submitted by Nikhil Viswanathan, is a scaffold that would be implanted into the pharynx to allow swallowing with ease for patients with dysphagia.

MD+DI readers voted for their favorite dream medical devices. The winner of the reader poll was Mycrobiome, a connected device that analyzes stool and saliva samples to provide users information about their microbiome and ways to improve it. Reade Harpham, who submitted the idea, wrote that the device was inspired by the prevalence of digestive health problems and the difficulty in diagnosis and treatment.

Kreml, one of the competition judges, acknowledged the “sleek and attractive” design of Mycrobiome, but said with research being conducted on the links between the microbiome and specific medical conditions, “the clinical utility remains to be seen at this point.”

Marie Thibault is the managing editor at MD+DI. Reach her at and on Twitter @MedTechMarie.

[Device image courtesy of THOMAS MOWERY]

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