Orthopedic surgeons using new innovation with great results

A select group of orthopedic surgeons in Canada, and their patients, are now benefiting from an innovative hip replacement technology developed by three University of Waterloo graduates.

Intellijoint HIP™(formerly PelvAssist™), a medical device that facilitates the accurate placement of implants during hip replacement surgery, is currently being used by six surgeons at Grand River Hospital, in Kitchener, and Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Ont. Armen Bakirtzian, Chief Executive Officer, Director, and Co-founder of Intellijoint Surgical (formerly Avenir Medical), hopes to see surgeons across Canada and the U.S. using the technology shortly.

“The surgeons we’re working with have been involved since the design stage of the technology. They’re excited to now be using Intellijoint HIP™ in their surgeries and are very happy with the results,” says Bakirtzian. “The early outcomes of surgeries done with the technology are extremely positive – the results have been more accurate than the traditional method and the surgeons want to use it all the time.”

Intellijoint Surgical announced early results for its ongoing clinical study showing the company’s smart tool to be significantly more accurate in determining leg length and offset equivalency than traditional measurement methods used in hip replacement. Bakirtzian and the technology were also featured in the Toronto Star.

Bakirtzian is enthusiastic about the future of Intellijoint Surgical. “We were very excited to receive Health Canada’s licence to launch Intellijoint HIP™ in Canada. We met the international requirements for our quality management system for the design and manufacture of medical devices, and have submitted our application to the FDA for marketing Intellijoint HIP™ in the U.S.,” he says.

Intellijoint founders in operating room

Credit: Hilary Gauld-Camilleri 

These milestones follow a journey that began more than five years ago when Bakirtzian watched his father, an orthopedic surgeon, conduct a hip replacement aligning the joint only by eye. His father explained that other surgical tools to ensure correct alignment were costly, complicated, and time consuming. Therefore, about 97% of surgeons performed the alignment by eye alone.

Bakirtzian, and fellow classmates Richard Fanson and Andre Hladio, mechatronics engineering students at the time, recognized the need for a simple, fast, and cost effective medical tool to assist surgeons positively impact patient outcomes. As part of a fourth year mechatronics engineering project, they began working on the concept of Intellijoint HIP™.

Similar to using a level to ensure accurate placement of a shelf, Intellijoint HIP™ provides surgeons with an intelligent instrument to avoid misalignment that can lead to additional surgery, pain, instability of the hip joint, and change in leg length. Working closely with world renowned surgeons in the development of Intellijoint HIP™ has contributed significantly to its success and has been a key element in launching an entrepreneurial adventure – knowing the market and developing a product that meets a need.

Upon graduation, the team launched Intellijoint Surgical to continue development and commercialization of the technology, which has been recognized for its innovation through several awards. They include being named Best Innovative Business by the 2012 Canadian Youth Business Foundation Chairman’s Awards, as well as several provincial and federal government funding programs such as a $60,000 Scientists and Engineers in Business Fellowship. The fellowship is a University of Waterloo program supported by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) to promising entrepreneurs who want to commercialize their innovations and start high-tech businesses. In addition, Bakirtzian was selected to represent Canada at the G20 Young Entrepreneur Alliance Summits in 2011, 2012, and 2013.

(Updated February 2014)