Mark Dodson may not be the first guy you would call if your outboard motor failed in the middle of Toledo Bend, and he probably would not be at the top of your list if your car engine started making funny noises. But when it comes to devising mechanical instruments used in surgery, you might want this orthopaedic surgeon from Mid State Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine on your speed dial.
Innovation in orthopaedic surgery can be seen as a change in the thought process for doing something, or the useful application of new inventions or discoveries. Orthopaedics has long been an integral part of research and education and one of the driving forces in the medical devices industry. Dodson has invented a new surgical instrument. The Dodson Modular Retractor was created to expose small to medium-size broken bones for internal fixation, and can be used for distal radius, ulna, humerus and fibula fractures.
Retractors—which have been used in some form since the advent of surgery—are devices that hold open the incision so that doctors can make repairs. In plain language, Dodson’s invention allows surgeons to have unobscured access to tight spaces during wrist surgery. It also can be used in ankle surgery. “The idea behind my retractor is to make surgery more efficient with better outcomes for patients,” said Dodson, a 13-year member of Mid State Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center. “The retractors that have been available sometimes had to be removed and repositioned during surgery, and they could be somewhat bulky.”
“I try to minimize the incision to decrease the impact of surgery on soft tissue, and this new retractor is designed to allow that option to surgeons. Once the retractor is in place it generally does not have to be repositioned during surgery. This allows us to work without interruption, and it shortens the time a patient needs to be under anesthesia,” explained Dodson.
Dodson’s retractor is sold through Innomed Inc., a company that specializes in surgical equipment designed by doctors. The instrument, which has been on the market since late last fall, is manufactured in Germany. The invention was the featured instrument on the Innomed website homepage when it came to market.
It took Dodson about a year from conception to finished product. He experimented with several designs with the assistance of Hayes Manufacturing in Pineville. “The people at Hayes were especially helpful in interpreting my ideas and building prototypes. They are clever, resourceful and patient. The retractor would never have been accepted for production without the prototypes crafted by Hayes Manufacturing,” Dodson said. “I find it satisfying that a product that was first built in a prototype form by a local manufacturing plant is now available to surgeons worldwide.”
The Dodson Modular Retractor sells for about $250. The inventor receives five percent–$12.50—per unit sold. “This isn’t something I did for financial gain,” Dodson laughs, “and I’m sure I’m not the first doctor to have thoughts about how to improve existing equipment. The whole project was a challenge to see if there could be a better way to perform surgery.”
Dodson has another idea or two about surgical equipment design that he may pursue, but they’re not yet “front-burner items.”
“Whatever Mark does is motivated by an intense desire to improve efficiency and outcomes for patients,” said Dr. Chris Rich, Dodson’s colleague at Mid State Orthopaedic. “He has a high intellectual curiosity, and his invention was not conceived for the sake of ingenuity. It’s a product of wanting to contribute to the profession of medicine on behalf of patients.”