The best medical device design and engineering ideas often come from the frontlines of healthcare, where clinicians gain first-hand knowledge of unmet needs. Hegenberger Medical's origin story is a prime example.
During her 20-year career as a midwife, Marlene Hegenberger noticed a common problem. Postpartum suturing procedures to grade and repair tears and other perineum trauma sustained during childbirth are often ergonomically challenging for the clinician, making for an unnecessarily long and painful experience for the patient.
If only there was a device that could hold the vagina open throughout the procedure, Hegenberger thought. She recognized that such a tool could optimize the opportunity for diagnosis; reduce pain for the patient; eliminate the need for an extra pair of hands, freeing staff up to help elsewhere; help to reduce postpartum suturing procedure time.
Hegenberger began developing just such a device in 2015. It took four years, 88 prototypes, and many rounds of testing, but eventually, the Hegenberger Retractor was born. The device is currently being introduced into 25 countries around the world, and has just been deemed the "Most Ergonomic Device in Europe and The United Kingdom" at the Medtop Award Ceremony 2023.
Design features of the Hegenberger Retractor
- The device works by insertion into the patient's vagina and is designed to expand the area to provide a clear visual of tears.
- It is made from smooth plastic instead of metal, a consideration intended to make the device more comfortable and easier to use.
- The Hegenberger Retractor is designed to stay expanded throughout the procedure.
“We are delighted that the Retractor has been recognized for its ergonomic qualities," Hegenberger said. "As well as improving the experience for mums undergoing postpartum suturing, this award highlights the clear benefits for the clinician. Due to the location and position of these injuries, clinicians are significantly challenged to balance the comfort of the patient with their own ergonomics/working positions when it comes to carrying out the grading and suturing procedure."
She said that by improving access and visibility, clinicians are more comfortable and able to focus better on the task with less strain and stretching than is usually involved in postpartum suturing procedures.
“We pay a lot of attention to staff wellbeing when it comes to the ergonomics of desks, chairs, and computer positioning," Hegenberger said. "It’s a huge bonus that we are also able to afford this benefit to those working in the clinical setting."
According to the company, Hegenberger is the first midwife for nearly 200 years to bring an obstetric device to market, and only the second midwife in history to develop an obstetric device – the first being Marie Boivin. A French midwife, Boivin invented a new pelvimeter and a vaginal speculum in the nineteenth century (Boivin died in 1841).