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Surgeon innovates with FlexDex

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
A urologist assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing Medical Group at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, has found a way to save the U.S. Air Force millions of dollars in operating room costs using surgeon-powered robotics.

Major Richard Knight, diplomate of the American Board of Urology and chief of surgery at the 48th MDG, uses FlexDex surgical technology to conduct various operations, to include laparoscopic radical prostatectomy surgery, a minimally invasive procedure used to remove a patient’s cancerous prostate.

“The benefit of laparoscopic surgery is mainly decreased blood loss and shorter convalescent times,” said Knight. “The instrument reduces risk by allowing more agile and versatile intracorporeal suture placement.”

The FlexDex surgical platform precisely transforms the surgeon’s hand, wrist, and arm movements outside the patient into conforming actions of an end-effector inside the patient’s body. A single instrument averages around $500, a fraction of the cost of robotic surgical systems which average $2-million dollars.

“The device follows the direction of the surgeon's wrist, similar to a robotic instrument. This allows complex suturing inside the body while maintaining small incisions,” said Knight.

Knight met with the inventor of the FlexDex at Johns Hopkins University in July 2017 after seeing the product on a social media networking service for U.S. clinicians. He spent several hours training with the device learning tips and tricks from the FlexDex team, and then used the subsequent months afterward to practice with the instrument using a laparoscopic model he created to enhance his proficiency.

“My previous experience with both advanced laparoscopic surgery and robotic surgery created a perfect background for blending these skills into mastering the FlexDex,” Knight said.

Knight’s most complex case using the FlexDex came in 2017, when he performed a radical cystoprostatectomy with intracorporeal ileal neobladder, a procedure that removes the patient’s cancerous bladder, prostate and any remaining cancerous tissue in the pelvis and replaces the cancerous bladder with a new bladder made of small intestine.

He has performed a total of eight laparoscopic surgeries using the FlexDex with excellent results, and hopes that his experience will inspire other Air Force medical treatment facilities to adopt the technology.

“There are countless opportunities to use FlexDex technology,” said Knight. “After discussing the device with an urologist at Travis Air Force Base, he went through similar training and performed a laparoscopic pyeloplasty using the FlexDex with similar success.”

The successful implementation of new technologies like this is just one example of innovation the 48th MDG have employed to ensure their Airmen are able to provide their patients with the highest level of care and maintain readiness.

DISCLAIMER: The mention of a specific product or device in this article does not constitute U.S. Air Force endorsement.