CIT researchers invent device to simplify ear ops

John Vaughan and Olive O'Driscoll, who have invented a medical device for inserting grommets. Picture: Denis Scannell
John Vaughan and Olive O'Driscoll, who have invented a medical device for inserting grommets. Picture: Denis Scannell

Two Irish researchers have invented a medical device which has the potential to revolutionise how doctors around the world perform one of the most common childhood medical procedures.

Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) researchers Olive O’Driscoll and John Vaughan, co-founders of CIT start-up AventaMed, have just won a national innovation award for their V-Tube device — a ground-breaking, surgical instrument for inserting grommets.

An Irish manufacturer is lined up and the product is poised to undergo clinical trials here within months.

Ms O’Driscoll and Mr Vaughan are preparing to pitch their idea to US investors at a major medical devices expo in San Francisco later this year in a bid to secure funding to take the product global. Grommets are small drainage tubes which are inserted into a tiny incision in the eardrum to relieve pressure, and to allow bacteria and fluid to drain from the middle ear.

One in every 15 children undergoes the procedure before they reach the age of seven. About 3,400 such procedures are carried out in Ireland every year.

Currently, the 30-minute procedure is carried out in an operating theatre, with the patient under general anaesthetic, and requires high levels of manual dexterity, multiple surgical instruments and a medical team of four.

But after watching consultant ENT surgeon Michael Harney perform procedures at a Cork hospital, Ms O’Driscoll and Mr Vaughan, who are based at CIT’s Medic research centre, developed the V-Tube device, with product design funding from Enterprise Ireland, to make the procedure simpler.

“It is a single-use, hand- held device which comes pre-loaded with a grommet. It makes fitting grommets as simple as piercing an ear,” Ms O’Driscoll said.

It means surgeons can now fit a grommet quickly and safely in the comfort of their office and in a matter of minutes without the need for a general anaesthetic.

Mr Vaughan said their invention has huge benefits for the patient, for surgeons, and for the medical system by cutting waiting lists and by reducing the procedure cost by more than 50%.

The device could help deliver annual savings of up to €400,000 for some busy Irish hospitals where grommets are fitted.

The pair won the MedTech Idol Competition at the Invest in Innovation (IN”) Medical Device 360° conference in Dublin last week after the device was assessed by a panel of venture capitalists and angel investors who had a combined investment fund of up to €6bn.

They saw the potential of the V-Tube and chose AventaMed to represent CIT at the IN” Medical Device 360° Summit in San Francisco in November.

Mr Vaughan said they will use that event to seek investment to meet various international regulatory and clinical criteria to take the product global.

* www.aventamed.com

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