Activ Surgical launches visualization tech for making surgeries safer

After $25 million in funding and three years of development, the Boston-based medical device and software development company Activ Surgical is bringing its first product to market, the company said yesterday.

The company’s ActivEdge platform, an artificial intelligence and machine learning software system using data from a hardware attachment that can be fixed to existing surgical equipment, is intended to provide real-time intelligence and visualization to improve patient outcomes, the company said.

The platform and its associated products will be initially available in the U.S. with expectations to expand to the rest of the world next year. 

“The future of surgery is collaborative, with human judgement and wisdom augmented by robotics precision,” said chief executive Todd Usen in a statement.

Activ’s software purports to help surgeons avoid the medical errors that kill 400,000 people in the U.S. alone every year. Preventable medical errors are the third leading cause of death after heart attacks and cancer, and 26% of those errors are the result of surgical mistakes.

Aside from the human toll, these medical errors are costly, hitting healthcare facilities with a roughly $36 billion bill in the U.S.

Initially, Activ Surgical will work to integrate its technology into the 2.2 million most common laparoscopic procedures that are conducted in the U.S., including cholecystectomy, colectomy, hysterectomy and gastrectomy, where identification of blood flow and critical structures matter the most.

“Innovation in the surgical vision category is long overdue; the most commonly employed surgical imaging process, ICG, uses fluorescent dye invented more than 70 years ago and does not offer real-time, objective physiologic information to surgeons when they critically need it during procedures,” said Dr. Peter Kim, co-founder and chief science officer, Activ Surgical, in a statement. 

The company’s hardware-based technology works with existing visualization systems to provide real-time data and new visualizations of the surgical environment. The connected platform attaches to laparoscopic and arthroscopic systems.

The technology hasn’t been cleared by the FDA yet, but is in pilot tests with eight hospital networks around the country.

In addition to its hardware offering, Activ Surgical is developing a software tool to provide more refined data and visualization to surgeons. That ActivInsight product is still in development, the company said.

“We’re trying to bring new visual data to doctors that they don’t see today,” said Usen in an interview. “We figured out a way to make a small module that fits on existing scopes in hospitals already and augments surgical visualization.”

Usen ultimately sees the device as a technology that can improve the integration of robotics into surgical procedures. “We want to make [surgery] foolproof by taking the great things about autonomous robotics and bring it to mainstream surgery to prove out the concept,” he said.