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Innovative Education

Former Fellow's StimSite Clears FDA

From student to inventor, Albert Huang, MD, models innovation
Albert Huang holds his StimSite device
Albert Huang, MD, holds an early prototype of the StimSite device he designed to identify the ureter during surgery.
Over 3 million operations in the U.S. each year involve cutting close to the ureter, risking damage to the fragile tubes that are vital to kidney function. The ureter is notoriously difficult to locate and identify during surgery, requiring time-consuming dissection and even impromptu consults from urologists. Seeing the long-standing challenge to surgeons, former Houston Methodist surgical resident and research fellow Albert Huang, MD, wondered "Why do we do it this way? Is there an alternative? If not, why not?" It was during a difficult surgery—facing the challenge of avoiding the ureter—when Huang had the idea of using an electrical current to locate the ureter. As the only smooth muscle structure in that part of the body, the ureter is easily identified when stimulated with a small current in a device developed by Huang. It triggers the visible wormlike movement of the ureter on demand, even if it is hidden behind other tissues or structures. This offers surgeons greater confidence and ease when operating around the ureter, and allows them to document in their operative report that the best technology available was used to ensure patient safety. After years of planning, prototyping and testing, the device created by Huang has received FDA clearance. Read the press release here.
StimSite from Allotrope Medical
The StimSite smooth muscle stimulation technology addresses a critical need across a broad range of surgical procedures.
Named StimSite, the device can be plugged into the operating room wall and powered by a foot pedal. Huang also planned to integrate it into robotic operating systems, such as the DaVinci. In 2019, Huang began the process of a clinical pilot with a private practice Ob/Gyn group, whose physicians flew in from Dallas to train on using the device at the Houston Methodist Institute for Technology, Innovation & Education (MITIE™).
I was fortunate to be trained at a place that recruits people who like to think differently and are allowed to flourish. I was privileged to work with physicians who have the mindset for innovation—they aren’t stuck in their ways and don’t push away a new idea because ‘This is the way we’ve always done it.'
Albert Huang, MD
Founder and CEO Allotrope Medical
Huang continued to refine the technology before submitting the final version of the product for FDA clearance. His top priority was documenting the methodology and manufacturing process to ensure the product’s greatest safety and efficacy. Ultimately, he hopes his device will lay the foundation for a thriving ecosystem of innovation in Houston. “I want people to see success here, to see that the ecosystem can support the doctors who are willing to take a risk,” said Huang, who also is the Entrepreneur in Residence for TMCx. “I went to med school to help patients…. I would love to set the stage in the Texas Medical Center, for that doctor who comes up with that billion-dollar idea, which ultimately will help improve health care for millions of patients.”
By LaVonne Carlson, September 2020
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