Written by Barb Consiglio.
Regardless of how well a surgeon prepares, there are always risks in the operating room. One of those risks is nerve damage, and repairing the nerve as quickly as possible gives a patient the best chance of avoiding permanent loss of feeling of function. Checkpoint Surgical in Highland Hills, Ohio, has developed a handheld tool that surgeons can use in the operating room to test nerve function and make repairs before the patient is out of surgery.
“Nerve damage is a significant problem for surgeons, and if they learn that there is a problem post-operatively, the nerves may not be able to be repaired as efficiently and effectively,” said Len Cosentino, president and CEO of Checkpoint Surgical. “Our device allows surgeons to test those nerves along the way and ensure there won’t be any issues once the patient is in the recovery room.”
Checkpoint Surgical’s nerve stimulators operate on an internal battery and send a small electrical current to the tissue to elicit a muscle contraction. This allows the surgeon to identify and assess the health of the nerve. In addition to reducing the risk of nerve damage during surgery, the device can also be used to correct existing nerve issues. For example, surgeons can use the device to test surrounding nerves that may have been previously cut or compressed and decide the best course of action to repair them.
The technology was developed by NDI Medical, a company that develops implantable neurostimulation devices. Checkpoint Surgical is a spinoff of NDI, taking the new device to market and developing new handheld nerve-testing tools.
The company received $250,000 in funding from Jumpstart, a northeast Ohio partner of Ohio Third Frontier, which helped to market the device to hospitals. In 2014, Checkpoint Surgical was also awarded a $1.57 million Commercialization Acceleration Loan Fund, allowing the company to expand and develop a second nerve stimulation device specifically for head and neck surgeries.
“We wouldn’t have been able to create the new device without this support,” said Cosentino. “The programs here in Ohio have been key to getting the company off the ground, not just in our infancy, but also in our growth stage.”
Checkpoint Surgical has grown from three to 33 employees, with its nerve stimulation devices in over 300 hospitals, including local health systems like the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Clients also include leading healthcare facilities across the country such as the Mayo Clinic and Mount Sinai. Cosentino says the Cleveland area is the perfect place for any medical device company because of the tremendous healthcare institutions and professionals who help them validate their devices and design new products.
“There is a wealth of experience and knowledge in this medical community when it comes to nerve stimulation research,” said Cosentino. “We’ve consulted local experts from the very beginning and continue to rely on their knowledge. Together we are addressing important healthcare needs and improving outcomes for thousands of patients.”