A solution for headrest positions during oral surgery
A Device that Replicates the Assistant’s Role in Positioning the Patient
Katie, a dental oral surgeon assistant, was holding the patient’s head and her arm was cramping. “Keep his jaw angled this way,” the oral surgeon instructed, and Katie re-positioned herself. Katie was trying to do her best but her wrists were cramping and her back was getting tired. Dr. Eric Shiffman, a practicing dentist, and professor at the University of Minnesota is all too aware of the challenges associated with oral surgery. It is hard on the technicians, because the patient is typically sedated and therefore, not conscious, so the positioning is necessary for oral surgery. Eric thought there had to be a better way, a device of some kind that would replicate the assistant’s role in positioning the patient. He reached out to Lab651 for ideas.
“It’s always a challenge to reproduce human movement, flexibility, and adaptability,” Troy Pongratz, co-owner of Lab651 said. “But when Eric called us, we were excited to solve this interesting problem.”
Lab651 called an inter-disciplinary team together, including several technicians from the U of M, to brainstorm solutions. After watching the technicians re-enact their movements and positions, the team had a lightbulb go off. “We needed a locking ball swivel joint to replicate the astonishing number of minute hand and position adjustments,” Pongratz said. This is not an off the shelf component so Lab651 designed the needed custom mechanisms.
The device needed to mount to the oral surgeon’s chair, and look unobtrusive and elegant, so patients would feel at ease when seeing it. It also needed to be able to quickly swing out of the way, be pulled in when needed, and it had to be quiet, so as to not distract the surgeons. Lastly, it had to be designed to gently cradle and hold a person’s head and face.
“Coming up with pneumatic pressure was key to keeping costs in line, as well as being able to quickly position—and release—the machine’s positioning,” Pongratz explained. With a foot switch controlling pneumatic pressure, the supporting arms can be easily locked and unlocked for positioning and emergency release if needed.
“The results are outstanding!” Eric said enthusiastically. “The device does a better job of holding a consistent position and we’re able to have the technicians do more meaningful tasks that aren’t so hard on their bodies.” Productivity has improved as well as team satisfaction. “It’s a win-win for everyone,” Pongratz said.
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