Second-year resident Holden Brown, MD, and a group of his medical school colleagues recently obtained a patent for a simple arm support device designed to improve image quality, patient safety and comfort during imaging procedures.
Patients undergoing procedures that involve medical imaging such as CAT scans or MRIs often have to place their arms over their head with the help of pillows or straps so that the abdomen or chest area can be clearly viewed.
That positioning is uncomfortable for the patient to hold and can lead to nerve damage in the shoulder. Moreover, patients may move around while trying to hold that position, which can interfere with image quality and endanger the patient.
The patented device goes around a supine patient’s head and above their shoulders, keeping the arms parallel to the body with the biceps at right angles.
“It holds their arms in a safe and comfortable position out of the surgical field and out of the imaging field,” Dr. Brown said.
The device, which was originally prototyped with 3D-printed parts, includes a support that can easily be attached or removed from a standard medical table. Arm rests could slide to accommodate patients with various shoulder widths.
Dr. Brown and his teammates, who are still completing residency training, intend to pursue opportunities for commercial licensing and production and said they are excited about the new opportunities.
The idea for the device came from an attending physician who raised the problem at a medical device competition at the University of Utah, where Dr. Brown attended medical school.
“He didn’t have any ideas for how to solve the problem, but he said, ‘I have this problem and I think there’s probably a solution for it,’” Dr. Brown said. “That’s the drawing board we started from.”
With access to the school’s medical innovation lab and some nominal funding, the team got to work on prototyping, cycling through numerous iterations that began with cutting Styrofoam with kitchen knives. Five students, including Dr. Brown, and one attending are listed on the patent.
Dr. Brown also holds a Master’s in Business Administration and is involved in another device currently under review at the U.S. Patent Office. He said the experience of developing the device as well as navigating the time-intensive patent process with help from legal experts provided valuable lessons in teamwork and problem solving.
“This medical device innovation really added to my medical education,” he said.