When surgical instruments get sexy

Canterbury's Enztec recognised surgeons didn't only want tools that did the job – they wanted them to look beautiful as well.

Orthopaedic instrument design and manufacturing company Enztec produces high specification surgical instruments for many of the world’s leading implant companies.

But a focus on design and aesthetics alongside precision and performance has seen the instrument company differentiate its products and gain market share.

Remember the time when kitchen utensils were purely functional? Your knife/whisk/salt dispenser needed to do the job; it didn’t need to be beautiful. That’s all changed.

Ditto for surgical instruments. Over the years, the tools being used by surgeons have become increasingly precise and refined, as more complex, less invasive, operating techniques have been developed.

But until recently, “beautiful” wasn’t part of the design specifications, says Iain McMillan, Enztec's development manager.

That’s changed too, he says, with surgeons beginning to look for more sophisticated aesthetic in their work tools – as well as improved functionality.

He says meeting the challenge wasn’t easy in a highly-regulated industry, with tight controls.

However, over the last year the company has developed a new range of instruments for surgeons to use in an orthopaedic process called quad sparing knee replacement (pictured below).

“Our customer requested instruments which allowed streamlining and refinement of a specific surgical procedure,” McMillan says “It was noted how choreographed the procedure could become if every movement was thoroughly considered to reduce surgery time.

“The surgeon also expressed immense dissatisfaction with the appearance of routine surgical instruments.”

The resulting range can be operated with one hand (to streamline the process), but also uses forms not normally associated with surgical tools, and employs a common design language throughout the set.

Importantly the instruments can be produced for a price that keeps them within the tight budgets of health authorities around the world.

Enztec was named as Export Innovator of the Year and winner of the Innovation in Health & Science category at this year's New Zealand Innovators Awards.

The awards are proudly sponsored by Idealog. For full coverage, check out our latest issue (it has a very bright green cover – you can't miss it).