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Sawyer company develops new spinal surgical device

November 13, 2012
By KYLE WHITNEY - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - A new product - designed and set to be manufactured in Marquette County - could make spinal surgeries quicker and cheaper, while shortening patient recovery periods.

The lateral locking cage, a device developed by the local Frontier Medical Devices, should cut operating room time in half, according to Frontier President Dr. Matthew Songer.

"The product is the first of its kind. It is a minimally invasive way to fuse the spine," he said. "It is kind of unique. It is the first time you can fuse the spine laterally, through a minimally invasive approach."

Article Photos

A lateral locking cage, a new product from Frontier Medical Devices, is seen above. Frontier recently received FDA approval to begin manufacturing the product, which will be made at K.I. Sawyer. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)

The cage is designed to be used with lateral access spinal surgery -where the surgeon accesses the spine through a patient's side, rather than the front or back of the body - and can be used to address degenerative disc disease and instability.

Songer said a surgery to install a lateral locking cage will be similar to a current lateral surgery, which can help to restore spinal disk height in a patient.

"What's new about it is we have a fixation system that locks the cage to the bone, rigidly, so you get the kind of fixation that you need to stabilize the spine," he said.

The result is a quicker surgery - Songer estimates the new product could be installed in less than half the time of a typical four-hour lateral spine surgery - and a more rapid recovery.

"We believe (a patient) will be able to go home the next day," Songer said. "They'll be able to eat faster. They'll be able to walk faster. They'll be able to go back to work faster."

The surgery should also prove to be considerably cheaper, according to Songer. The lateral locking cage is cheaper to manufacture, but he said the real cost savings comes from the fact that patients end up paying for less time in the hospital and less time in the operating room.

Songer said the new product - which is the first the 2-year-old company has brought to market - should be a win-win.

Hospitals will be happy to discharge patients sooner, he said, while doctors will be able to complete additional surgeries and insurance companies will be happy to see cheaper surgeries being performed.

After more than a year of testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the lateral locking cage received approval recently and Songer said the product should begin hitting the market in the coming months.

It will be manufactured by Frontier at the company's facilities at K.I. Sawyer and will be marketed by Medtronic, the world's largest medical technology company. Frontier will manufacture the lateral locking cage and will ship it to Medtronic, which will sell the product.

Songer said that when manufacturing ramps up, his company which currently employs 12 - will need to hire new employees to meet demand, but he isn't yet sure how that will play out exactly.

"It's a little too early to tell. You know how fast the market adapts," he said. "It just will be a very good start for our business and it's good for the area."

Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.



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