Predictive technology developed at Duke promises to reduce inefficiencies in surgery

A start-up co-founded by a Duke neurosurgeon has developed a tool that uses artificial intelligence to make surgeries run more smoothly and efficiently by predicting which tools, in which order, will be required for the procedure.

The technology, developed in Brain Tool Lab of Patrick Codd, MD, helps ensure that a surgeon has every tool they need – and only those tools – for any surgery. This helps both the clinicians and patients by reducing the time required for surgery preparations and clean-up, improving the workflow of the surgery, reducing waste, and ultimately, creating a more streamlined process for the OR staff. The improved efficiency may also make it possible to add an additional operation into the schedule or reduce overtime work for the clinical team.

It’s estimated that 80% of instruments included on a tray for surgery go unused. Unused instruments mean time and resources wasted on preparing the instrument tray for surgery, and cleaning and processing dozens of unused tools after surgery.

The new technology uses tiny tags on the surgical instruments, and sensors and antennae in the surgical space. “This provides a massive amount of data on which instruments are being used in surgery, and when they are being used,” says Codd. “Therefore, we are able to reduce unnecessary instruments, reduce waste, prevent missing instruments, and generally make things run smoother for the clinical staff.”

In pilot studies, the number of instruments on the tray was reduced by half, and the time spent preparing the instrument tray for surgery was reduced by 25%. In addition, the cost savings was estimated at $20,000 per year, per tray.

Codd offers this example from a procedure he performs:  “A craniotomy tray has 150 instruments. It weighs a lot, and it’s not easy to carry. They all have to be laid out, which takes time. Only about 40 of these instruments will be used. At end of the case, the instruments have to be counted, reprocessed, cleaned, and returned.”

Codd, along with brothers Wes Hill and Ian Hill from the Brain Tool Lab, formed a start-up, Mente, to bring the product to fruition. “We were able to take a Duke-born technology, foster and pilot it in the entrepreneurial environment of Duke to the point it could be translated out as a start-up, partner with Duke to bring a technology to the OR, and are about to start applying this technology more broadly to reduce waste and help the entire team,” says Codd.

The startup recently signed a contract with Duke to apply this technology in transplant and colorectal surgery. See a demonstration of the technology in this video.