10 Orthopedic and Spine Surgeon-Inventors

Written by Leigh Page | November 06, 2009 | Print  |

Wilson Asfora, MD — Sanford Clinic Neurosurgery & Spine (Sioux Falls, S.D.). This Brazilian-born neurosurgeon developed the Bullet Cage, a lumbar intervertebral body fusion device to treat degenerative disc disease. It recently won FDA 510(k) market clearance and Dr. Asfora's company, Sioux Falls-based Medical Designs, is arranging manufacturing and marketing of the product.


Dr. Asfora says the concept behind the Bullet Cage has been around since 1941, when a Hawaiian surgeon developed an approach to treat sailors injured in the attacks on Pearl Harbor replacing spinal discs in patients with bone. But the technique was suspended because it caused nerve damage. Several iterations later, Dr. Asfora's version incorporates improvements such as being minimally invasive and using a posterior surgical approach instead of going in through the belly.

Dr. Asfora earned his MD from the Federal University of Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil, and undertook his residency in neurological surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, University of California San Francisco Medical Center and the University of Ottawa Faculty Medical Hospital.

Oheneba Boachie-Adjei, MD — Hospital for Special Surgery (New York). Dr. Boachie-Adjei has developed a method of enhancing bone density using a nucleic acid to encode an angiogenic protein to produce the angiogenic protein. He is currently researching spinal instrumentation design and application.

A native African, Dr. Boachie-Adjei's special clinical interest is in scoliosis and spine reconstructive and deformity surgery in pediatric and adult patients.

Born in Ghana in 1950, he emigrated to the United States in 1972 and earned a bachelor of science degree (summa cum laude) from Brooklyn College in 1976. He received his MD from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1980 and held fellowships in orthopedic pathology at the Hospital for Special Surgery and in spine, reconstructive and deformity surgery at Twin Cities Scoliosis Center in Minneapolis.

Todd Swanson, MD — Desert Orthopaedic Center (Las Vegas). Dr. Swanson serves as a consultant for orthopedic implant companies and directs the Desert Orthopaedic Research Foundation, which has been involved in several research studies and orthopedic implant design innovations.

Working with Smith & Nephew Orthopedics, Dr. Swanson and other surgeons are designing a new mini-stem total hip prosthesis for young patients. He has completed 17 surgeries with the prosthesis, including one on a 17-year-old male who needed a total hip replacement because of a slipped capital femoral epiphysis, a developmental disorder of the hip ball, that resulted in chondrolysis, destruction of the hip joint cartilage, at a very young age.

He earned an MD from Washington University Medical School, completed an orthopedic residency at the University of California, Davis, completed a fellowship on total joint replacement at the Metropolitan/Mount Sinai Medical Center in Minneapolis in 1991, and has practiced at Desert Orthopaedic Center since then.

Robert S. Bray Jr., MD — DISC Sports and Spine Center (Marina del Rey, Calif.). Dr. Bray is the developer of the InterPlate L interbody device, manufactured by RSB Spine in Cleveland. Approved by the FDA in 2007, the InterPlate L is designed to facilitate rapid fusion and is used in conjunction with graft material to fuse spinal vertebrae.

While in neurosurgery training in Houston, his attending told him, "You're a smart guy. Go invent what you need to build the field." He set about designing equipment for minimally-invasive spine surgery. To modify the Zeiss microscope for spine surgery, he flew to Germany and worked with Zeiss engineers on prototypes that were later put on the market.

Dr. Bray is one of many surgeon-inventors with roots in engineering. His father was dean of engineering at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, Calif., but Dr. Bray always had a medical career in mind. He received his MD from the University of California, San Diego, and completed his neurosurgeory residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Michael G. Brown, MD — Brown Hand Center (Houston). This Houston surgeon has been a pioneer in introducing minimally-invasive procedures for hand surgery. He holds two U.S. patents for the Brown Procedure for endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery and he developed an endoscopic trigger finger procedure.

The Brown Procedure involves making a 9mm incision very near the wrist and a 4mm incision in the palm. The instrumentation is inserted, isolating the transverse carpal ligament from the contents of the carpal tunnel. The ligament is then divided with endoscopic visualization as the surgeon watches the video monitor and the surgeon's assistant holds the patient's hand hyperextended and moves the endoscope.

Dr. Brown earned his MD from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, where he was a protégé of Michael E. DeBakey, MD, the late, great heart surgeon. Dr. DeBakey urged Dr. Brown to become a heart surgeon, but after three years in the Baylor surgery program, Dr. Brown decided to become a hand surgeon instead and attended hand surgery fellowships in California, finishing at San Joaquin General Hospital.

Kingsley Chin, MD — Institute for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery (West Palm Beach, Fla.). Dr. Chin is co-developer Stryker Spine's Mentis spinal system, a minimally-invasive system for percutaneously placing implants to treat degenerative spinal disorders. Mantis allows placement of spinal devices such as pedicle screws and rods in a manner similar to open surgeries, minimizing the learning curve for minimally-invasive spine surgery.

Dr. Chin originally intended to be an engineer. But when he graduated from Columbia University's Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science in 1989 with a major in electrical engineering, he changed his career focus. After spending two years as a management consultant for Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) in New York, he entered Harvard Medical School. Dr. Chin earned his Harvard MD in 1996 and completed an orthopedic residency at Harvard in 2002.

After completing a spine surgery fellowship at Case Western Reserve University, Dr. Chin changed his career focus once again and became an inventor of medical devices for spine surgery. He now has more than 24 issued and pending patents under his name. He sold the Mantis device to Stryker in a multimillion-dollar deal. In the first year after the FDA cleared Mantis in 2007, it generated more than $20 million in sales.

Henry A. Finn, MD — University of Chicago Bone and Joint Replacement Center at Weiss (Chicago).
Dr. Finn developed the Finn Knee System, an orthopedic prosthesis for limb salvage and challenging knee surgeries, introduced in 1991. According to Biomet, maker of the implant, more than 12,000 Americans have benefited from the Finn Knee System, which evolved in 2000 into the OSS Orthopaedic Salvage System featuring the Finn Knee, a complete salvage revision/oncology limb-reconstructive system.

Dr. Finn has also helped invent other orthopedic prostheses, including the Balance Hip, a cementless hip replacement that enables patients immediate weight-bearing on the hip; the Vanguard SSK Knee, a superstabilized knee used in complicated and revisional knee surgeries; the Balance Microplasty Hip, used in minimally-invasive surgery; and the OSS Salvage Cage for revisions in cases of catastrophic failure of hip-replacement sockets.

He received his MD from Hahnemann University in Philadelphia, completed an orthopedics residency at Hahnemann and a fellowship in orthopedic oncology at the University of Chicago. Dr. Finn is now director of the Bone and Joint Replacement Center at Weiss.

Ken Y. Hsu, MD — St. Mary's Spine Center (San Francisco). Dr. Hsu is co-inventor – with James F. Zucherman, MD, also at St. Mary's — of the X Stop Interspinous Process Decompression System, which alleviates the symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis. The process, FDA-approved in 2005, was first in the category of interspinous process devices. It can be surgically implanted during a minimally-invasive procedure that is typically performed with local anesthesia in less than an hour.

Dr. Hsu, who holds 43 patents, has been the director of spine surgery at St. Mary's Medical Center since 1988 and is a member of the clinical faculty at Stanford University.

He received his MD from State University of New York, completed a residency in general surgery at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco and an orthopedic surgery residency at St. Mary's. He completed a fellowship in spine and pediatric orthopedic surgery at the University of Hong Kong.

Jeffrey Kozak, MD — Fondren Orthopedic Group (Houston). Dr. Kozak has participated in the design of several spinal implants and holds several patents for spinal fixation devices and interbody constructs, including an orthopedic fixation device from Aesculap, a division of the B. Braun Melsungen. He is a specialist in spinal reconstructive surgery.

Dr. Kozak earned his bachelor's degrees in Biomedical Engineering and Electrical Engineering with honors from Duke University. He completed his MD and orthopedic surgery residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, then studied with many of the world's leading spinal specialists in a spinal fellowship in England, France and Germany.

Seyed Rezaian, MD — California Orthopaedic Medical Clinic (Beverly Hills, Calif.). Dr. Rezaian developed the Rezaian Spinal Fixator, a turn-buckle appliance with a fixation mechanism that replaces a damaged body of the vertebra. His minimally-invasive laser surgery technique, the universal endoscopic laser discectomy, is designed to relieve back pain.

Dr. Rezaian earned his MD from Meshed University in Iran in 1963 and completed his residency in London. He has been a member of the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons in London since 1969 and is an active member and fellow of the British Orthopaedic Surgeons as well as of American orthopedic societies.

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