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The Unknowns of Surgical Drilling

BoneZone magazine, a publication of ORTHOWORLD INC.

Research Begins for a More Efficient Drill

When drilling bone, orthopedic surgeons are faced with several challenges. Simply put, the progression of drill wear is not self-evident to a surgeon, locking them into making judgment calls on drill replenishment based on feel of drilling. Bone drills are often reused without the benefit of tool wear data. This results in the use of drills that have become dull or are discarded when they still have useful life. According to the Association for Surgical Technologists, the reuse of single-use devices is encouraged by healthcare facilities in order to provide efficient, cost-saving medical/surgical care.

Work was undertaken at the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center, Research & Development (OMIC R&D) to study these issues. OMIC R&D is a world-class collaborative environment bringing together industry, higher education and government to develop new tools, techniques and technologies to address near-term manufacturing challenges through applied research. Stemming from many years of cumulative aerospace and industrial manufacturing experience, the OMIC R&D researchers were aware of drilling state-of-the-art solutions offered by manufacturers such as Walter, Seco, Kennametal, Sandvik, Mitsubishi, OSG, IMCO and Sumitomo. These manufacturers invest thousands of dollars into their product developments, and tools are subjected to severe internal testing before release into the market. It became alarmingly apparent to OMIC R&D researchers as to how outdated the geometries on orthopedic drills are, and how little testing was conducted for tools used in orthopedic operations. OMIC R&D researchers, along with undergraduate students from Oregon Tech, went to work with the goal of developing a bone cutting drill that is more efficient with a longer, more predictable cutting life, while generating less heat transfer to the bone than drills currently used in orthopedic surgery.