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Post heart surgery device ‘pioneered’

December 11, 2012
By KYLE WHITNEY - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - For two decades, Marquette-based Pioneer Surgical has been improving the medical world through the creation of simple and effective instruments and devices.

In keeping with expectations, company officials have high hopes for Pioneer's newest venture, Tritium SCP, a cardio-thoracic product hitting the market this month.

"Pioneer is celebrating our 20th anniversary this year and what better way than adding a key product to continue our growth of novel products within and outside the United States," said Shane Ray, Pioneer's executive vice president of cardio-thoracic and biologics. "Our engineers, marketing, sales and manufacturing professionals brought this product to market in record time taking an idea literally from writing on a napkin to product in the operating room within a year."

Article Photos

Peter Didyk, the director of sales and marketing at Marquette's Pioneer Surgical, demonstrates the operation of the company's newest product, Tritium SCP. The product, which recently received FDA approval, helps to facilitate the healing process following open heart surgery and should usher in growth in Pioneer's cardio-thoracic division, according to company officials. (Journal photo by Kyle Whitney)

Tritium SCP is a combination cable and plate system used to facilitate healing after open heart surgery.

During a typical open heart surgery, a patient's sternum is split vertically and following the operation, the two halves of the sternum must be rejoined to allow for the bone to heal. Most often, this is achieved by simply wrapping wire around the sternum and twisting it until tightened.

For some patients, though, wire isn't strong enough to provide the bond needed for appropriate healing and in the early 1990s, Pioneer engineered a system that uses mechanically tightened cable to lock the halves in place. More recently, other companies have developed metal plates that screw directly to the bone. The plates are extremely secure, but only hold the bone perfectly together on the anterior portion of the sternum, where they are connected.

Jamie Close, Pioneer's national director of sales - cardiac, said Tritium SCP integrates the benefits and advantages of both cable and about traditional plate systems.

The new system will help what is a growing segment of patients, according to Close. As less-invasive procedures, such as stents and balloons, increase in popularity and as medical technology improves, people are having open heart surgery later in life than ever before. The candidates for surgery, then, often have other issues, including diabetes, osteoporosis or COPD. They routinely heal slower and, Close said, their bones require more stability than can be offered by cable or plates alone.

"Their bones don't heal quite as easy, quite as fast," he said. "We know from orthopedics, that the more rigid you can hold a bone, the better fusion you're going to get. On some of these tougher patients, what they want to do is use something better than regular wire or in many cases, add some extra structure other than cable, as well. That's why we came up with this."

Tritium SCP, which received FDA approval recently and will be used in surgeries before the end of the month, was dreamt up less than a year ago, during a dinner conversation between Close and Peter Didyk, the director of sales and marketing for Pioneer, said Tritium SCP. Didyk said the product should help to grow Pioneer's already-large cardio-thoracic customer base.

Though the company is known primarily for spinal instrumentation, Didyk estimates that Pioneer sells more than seven times as many cardio-thoracic products each year. Because of the difference in cost, however, the company's main revenue stream comes through its spinal division.

"We are starting to dedicate more resources (to cardio-thoracic)," Didyk said. "With this product coming out, we would anticipate significant growth."

Didyk said the launch of the new product should also help raise the company's profile. Pioneer's main sternal cable system was used recently during an episode of ABC's nationally televised drama "Grey's Anatomy."

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



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