The Screw Cutter Project: A surgical solution to help orthopaedic surgeons around the globe

The Screw Cutter Project: A surgical solution to help orthopaedic surgeons around the globe

In the operating rooms of developing countries all over the world orthopaedic surgeons are faced with an impossible dilemma: Use the wrong size screw in a patient with a fractured bone or use a bolt cutter to cut a long screw down to size.

For patients in developed countries, there is a ready supply of screws of every size for patients who need their bones mended. In the operating rooms of developing countries, nurses are asked to use bolt cutters to cut them down to size.

Yes bolt cutters.

Because of the blunt nature of bolt cutters, the tip of the screw is jagged and isn’t ideal for screwing into a patient, not to mention potentially very painful for the patient.

This dilemma stems from the common problem of having an inadequate supply of consumables, like orthopaedic screws, needed for surgery.

UBC Engineers in Scrubs at the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility have invented a simple, ingenious solution to solve this very problem and to ensure there is an abundant supply of screws of every size in every operating room in every developing country.

Enter the Screw Cutter. At first glance it looks like a long arm stapler but its function has the potential to revolutionize orthopaedic surgeries all over the world.

  • The difference between screw tips created with a bolt cutter (Right) versus the Screw Cutter (Left)
    The difference between screw tips created with a bolt cutter (Right) versus the Screw Cutter (Left)
  • The Screw Cutter prototype
    The Screw Cutter prototype
  • The Screw Cutter Team. From Left to Right: Andrew, Vivian, Greg, Shalaleh
    The Screw Cutter Team. From Left to Right: Andrew, Vivian, Greg, Shalaleh
  • Vivian Chung demonstrating the surgical bolt cutter
    Vivian Chung demonstrating the surgical bolt cutter
  • Surgical bolt cutter with a saw bone
    Surgical bolt cutter with a saw bone
  • Screw Cutter Team
    Screw Cutter Team
  • Demonstrating typical fracture fixation procedure in developing countries
    Demonstrating typical fracture fixation procedure in developing countries
  • The Screw Cutter Prototypes
    The Screw Cutter Prototypes
  • Screw Cutter in action
    Screw Cutter in action
  • The Screw Cutter Team. From Left to Right: Andrew, Vivian, Greg, Shalaleh
    The Screw Cutter Team. From Left to Right: Andrew, Vivian, Greg, Shalaleh
  • Example of a long screw that cut by a bolt cutter, notice the incomplete, jagged cut
    Example of a long screw that cut by a bolt cutter, notice the incomplete, jagged cut
  • The difference between screw tips created with a bolt cutter (Right) versus the Screw Cutter (Left)
    The difference between screw tips created with a bolt cutter (Right) versus the Screw Cutter (Left)
  • The screw cutter shearing a surgical screw
    The screw cutter shearing a surgical screw
  • Demonstrating surgical bolt cutter during a bone fracture fixation procedure
    Demonstrating surgical bolt cutter during a bone fracture fixation procedure
  • Surgical bolt cutter in action
    Surgical bolt cutter in action
  • The difference between screw tips created with a bolt cutter (Right) versus the Screw Cutter (Left)
    The difference between screw tips created with a bolt cutter (Right) versus the Screw Cutter (Left)
  • The Screw Cutter prototype
    The Screw Cutter prototype
  • The Screw Cutter Team. From Left to Right: Andrew, Vivian, Greg, Shalaleh
    The Screw Cutter Team. From Left to Right: Andrew, Vivian, Greg, Shalaleh
  • Vivian Chung demonstrating the surgical bolt cutter
    Vivian Chung demonstrating the surgical bolt cutter
  • Surgical bolt cutter with a saw bone
    Surgical bolt cutter with a saw bone
  • Screw Cutter Team
    Screw Cutter Team
  • Demonstrating typical fracture fixation procedure in developing countries
    Demonstrating typical fracture fixation procedure in developing countries
  • The Screw Cutter Prototypes
    The Screw Cutter Prototypes
  • Screw Cutter in action
    Screw Cutter in action
  • The Screw Cutter Team. From Left to Right: Andrew, Vivian, Greg, Shalaleh
    The Screw Cutter Team. From Left to Right: Andrew, Vivian, Greg, Shalaleh
  • Example of a long screw that cut by a bolt cutter, notice the incomplete, jagged cut
    Example of a long screw that cut by a bolt cutter, notice the incomplete, jagged cut
  • The difference between screw tips created with a bolt cutter (Right) versus the Screw Cutter (Left)
    The difference between screw tips created with a bolt cutter (Right) versus the Screw Cutter (Left)
  • The screw cutter shearing a surgical screw
    The screw cutter shearing a surgical screw
  • Demonstrating surgical bolt cutter during a bone fracture fixation procedure
    Demonstrating surgical bolt cutter during a bone fracture fixation procedure
  • Surgical bolt cutter in action
    Surgical bolt cutter in action

The Screw Cutter turns a tray of randomly sized screws into the precise sized screw needed for the patients’ body. It finishes a screw with a tip that gives the screw traction, enabling it to be screwed into the bone easier, alleviating pain for the patient and making it easier for the surgeon to complete the surgery with accuracy and ease.

It doesn’t require electricity, it’s not labour intensive, it’s simple to use, it doesn’t required an intensive cleaning process, it doesn’t take up much valuable space in the operating room.

Excellence never happens in isolation. To develop the screw cutter, the team works directly with surgeons at Uganda Sustainable Trauma Orthopaedic Program (USTOP) at Vancouver General Hospital and with surgeons Mulago Hospital in Uganda.

 Any good invention inspires you to think “Wow, why didn’t this exist already?” Well now it does.

The Screw Cutter Team is working on scaling up their invention to make it more readily available for the thousands of operating rooms across the world that don’t currently have the screw inventory they need.

Learn more about the Screw Cutter Project at ScrewCutter.com.