Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive technique to access the abdomen for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes. The predominant way to gain access for laparoscopy is insufflation of the abdominal cavity with CO2 gas to improve visibility and access. However, this technique has some contraindications, requires equipment that is expensive to obtain and maintain, and carries sustainability concerns due to the use of CO2 and single-use instruments. These challenges reduce the access to laparoscopy in low resource areas, such as rural hospitals and in developing communities. Moreover, most rural hospitals only perform laparotomy (open surgery) today.
An alternative to insufflation is gasless laparoscopy, in which the abdomen is mechanically lifted to access and visualize the abdominal cavity. Developing the technique to be affordable, convenient, and provided alongside comprehensive training would bring an increasingly common laparoscopic technique to a much bigger population, especially in low-resource areas.
To address the shortcomings of current gasless laparoscopy devices that are difficult to use and poorly implemented, especially in low-resource settings, a team of engineers and clinicians designed a fit-for-purpose gasless laparoscopy retractor from the ground up. The system was designed alongside surgeons in high- and low-income settings and incorporates novel features, including a ring that reduces damage to the patient and ease of insertion, a focus on visibility in the local surgical quadrant, and attention to the sterilization procedure. The team has also developed and implemented training programs to introduce the technology and improve general laparoscopy competency.
The device has been granted regulatory approval in India and has been implemented in several hospitals in rural areas The team has published several publications indicating the efficacy of both the device and associated training programs. The next step is commercialization and expansion to other markets.
Meet the team
Willem joined NLC in August 2017. He is responsible for overseeing all technical aspects of NLC at an operational and strategic level, guarding the quality of inflow and driving supporting technologies. Willem holds a PhD from the Eindhoven University of Technology, is an IP expert, and has corporate and venturing experience. He is a principal scientist and prolific inventor at Philips Research turned serial entrepreneur.
Ellis joined NLC in September 2021 and sees health innovation as an inherently intersectional field. She joined NLC as a venture developer to combine her research, business, and policy interests to help translate health inventions into tangible solutions. Ellis has a background in chemical and biological engineering and research and holds a Master’s degree in medical biology and innovation management.