A Taiwanese doctor has invented a special kind of needle that can reduce blood loss and surgery time by half for some liver-related operations, an achievement that will be featured in next month's edition of Annals of Surgery, the world's most highly referenced surgery journal.
Chang Yu-chung (張玉川) of National Cheng Kung University Hospital in Tainan, said his liver needles come in three sizes -- 22cm, 18cm and 12cm -- for Westerners, Asians and kidney operations respectively.
Chang's needle for Asians is composed of a straight 18cm inner needle with a hook near the top to catch thread and a 15cm, 18-gauge stainless steel outer sheath.
Since the invention of the needle in 1997, he has used them on 69 patients suffering from liver cancer, portal vein tumor thrombus and other liver and gall bladder ailments. All of the operations were carried out successfully, with no reported infection and few complications, he said.
Usually liver surgery requires expensive and sophisticated tools such as a Lin's clamp, Cavitron ultrasound aspiration and a water jet knife, the use of which require years of training. With Chang's needle, doctors need only a little training.
More importantly, with Chang's needle the time needed to perform liver surgery is cut from seven to eight hours to two to three hours and hemorrhaging is reduced by between a third and a half.
"What is good about these needles is that they can be used to cut anywhere you want, except for certain sensitive regions," he said.
He has already obtained patents for his invention in Taiwan, China and the US, and is applying for exclusive rights in the EU, South Korea, Brazil and Canada.
He said Brazilian physicians have acquired eight "Chang's needles" for use in spleen removal. Doctors in Singapore, China, Vietnam and the Philippines also possess them, and he hopes to further promote their use in developing countries.
His needles are currently used in eight hospitals in Taiwan.