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Power Tool Preferences
Keep these factors in mind when equipping your surgeons.
David Bernard
Publish Date: July 25, 2014
surgical power tools TOOLS OF THE TRADE Power, speed, torque and ergonomics play a part in a surgical power tool’s usefulness.

In joint replacement, sports medicine and orthopedic trauma cases, surgical power tools make efficient and precise work of the sawing, drilling, burring, reaming and wire driving necessary to prepare bone and place implant hardware. If you’re in the market to equip or upgrade your tool chest, here are some key factors that surgeons say make a big difference in getting the job done.

1. Power source
Without the juice, no work is going to be getting done. You’ve got 3 options: pneumatic-, electric- and battery-powered devices. Traditional pneumatic tools are connected via tubing to tanks of the compressed air that makes them go. Electric tools are similarly corded to power consoles or outlets. But battery-operated tools are becoming increasingly common, if not the standard choice.

The rechargeable lithium-ion batteries offer numerous advantages, all of them linked to eliminating cords from the OR. Untethered instruments allow surgeons more freedom of movement and mobility. They won’t compromise the surgical field by dragging a cord across it. Plus, they don’t add to the cord clutter of surgical technology and its attendant tangles and trip-and-fall risks. Be sure, however, to research the estimated battery lifespan and recharging time for the tools you’re considering, as you’ll want to ensure they’re reliable when they’re needed.

2. The business end
A tool’s speed and torque are also measures of its effectiveness, efficiency and precision in cutting, boring or shaving. Speed indicates how many revolutions or complete cycles a drill bit or saw blade makes in a certain amount of time. Torque quantifies the force exerted by the tool.

Different types of anatomy require different balances of the 2 variables. Larger, denser bones, such as the femur, are best handled with low speed and high torque, for instance, while the smaller, more delicate bones of the hand and wrist need high speed and low torque. As a result, a tool that features programmable settings for automatic adjustment of speed and torque to a physician’s preferences can be quite a time-saver when setting up cases. So can modular power tool handpieces that can accomplish multiple tasks from a single unit with a quick change of attachments.

easily assembled tools STAND BY Make sure your tools are easily assembled, disassembled, and reprocessed for use and reuse.

3. Use and reuse
Don’t neglect the appeal of ergonomic equipment. Power tools are handheld devices, but those that fit surgeons’ hands more comfortably are often considered easier to use. A lightweight, evenly balanced drill or saw enables more dexterity and control and likely produces less hand, arm and shoulder fatigue to deliver better results.

You also shouldn’t overlook a tool’s assembly and disassembly or its reprocessing demands. Both surgical and central sterile staffers will appreciate equipment that’s easily taken apart and put together again. Additionally, make sure your sterile processing department is fully equipped to properly turn around the tools’ handpieces, batteries and other components for reuse. Can the reprocessing process sufficiently supply your surgical schedule? Depending on your case volume, an investment in extra tools may be in order.

ergonomic tools FEELING GOOD Surgeons often believe ergonomic tools are easier to use.

4. Service and sustainability
Power tool technology isn’t cheap. Some sets cost more than $50,000, even before factoring in additional bits and blades and backup batteries. Since modern orthopedic surgery depends on the devices — there’s no manual substitute for a high-powered drill’s performance — ?it’s imperative to line up reliable service or to budget for a backup option in case essential power tools succumb to normal wear and tear.

One manufacturer’s line electronically automates equipment maintenance for you through a process called “integrated remote device management.” While the tools’ batteries are plugged into their chargers, they send performance data they’ve collected from the handpieces to the manufacturer’s service support staff, who troubleshoot performance problems and issue maintenance recommendations remotely.

The immediate availability of loaner tools through your vendor’s representative while yours are being repaired is an ideal service solution. But if that’s not possible, perhaps the single-use power tools that various manufacturers have introduced in recent years can serve as a workable alternative. Designed for shelf life and quick setup, the disposable devices require no recharging or reprocessing.