Surgeon turns his hand to inventing and comes up trumps with medical instrument


The insertion of a chest drain into the thoracic cavity, often during emergency situations, has proved a life-saver on many occasions. Yet, until now, clinicians did not have an instrument designed for the procedure. One has now been invented by Mr Emmet Andrews, a surgeon in training at Cork University Hospital (CUH).

A fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland and the Royal College of Surgeons of England, Mr Andrews practised general surgery for some years and has often had to introduce drains into the chest cavity using the conventional method.

This involves the trocar, a long, sharp metal rod which has inherent dangers, and sometimes a forceps to create the channel for the drain.

Mr Andrews had been wondering how this might be improved. By last November, he was able to apply for patents for the Andrews Introducer, an implement which obviates the need for a trocar. It gives surgeons more efficient dissection of the muscular channel in the chest and allows for more accurate positioning and alignment of the drain.

In conjunction with the department of cardiothoracic surgery at CUH, the new instrument has been used successfully on 30 patients who underwent elective operations.

The results have been presented to the British Thoracic Society and to the Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland. A multi-centre trial of the new instrument will now be carried out in the accident and emergency departments at CUH, the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, the Ulster Hospital, Belfast, and Beaumont Hospital, Dublin.

A submission is also being prepared for the US Food and Drugs Administration.

The Andrews chest drain is a hollow, flexible plastic tube in a sterile pack with a range of sizes up to a maximum diameter of 10.7mm.

Mr Andrews is confident from the earlier trials at CUH that the new instrument will be taken up by doctors and hospitals worldwide. He is at present undertaking an MD by thesis at UCC and his invention has won this year's UCC Entrepreneurship Competition, which has a prize of £3,500.

The winner of the competition is also given the opportunity of using the university's marketing back-up skills for a three-year period through the department of management and marketing.