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$1.8 million NIH grant funds IU researcher’s work on mobile compression device

Jason Watters, MD

Jason Watters, MD

An Indiana University School of Medicine faculty member is partnering with an Indiana medical technology company to test the effectiveness of a mobile compression device in preventing deep vein thrombosis—a risky post-surgery side effect of a knee replacement.

Jason Watters, MD, a professor in the IU School of Medicine Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, was one of two physicians chosen to participate in the study, which clinically tests the lightweight, quiet and wireless equipment developed by the Fishers-based Recovery Force, LLC.

Jason Watters, MD, speaks with patient.

Jason Watters, MD, speaks with a patient.

Recovery Force’s Mobile Active Compressions (MAC) calf device has been in development since the company was founded five years ago. Now, a $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will cover the cost of testing the device on some 300 patients in Indianapolis and Boston over the next two years.

Watters will provide the MAC device to his knee replacement patients at Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Hospital, where more than 400 joint-replacement surgeries take place each year. More than 60 percent of those are knee replacements, Watters said.

Similar work for the study will take place at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

Compression devices are typically placed on a patient’s leg following surgery, and it intermittently presses the leg to create blood flow and prevent blood clots. Most of the pneumatic devices available are large, noisy and bogged down by tubes and wires that limit mobility, Watters said.

Typically, patients only wear the compression device for the day or two they spend in the hospital after surgery; but it’s much better to use them for at least a few weeks to help decrease the risk of blood clots. Some physicians will issue prescriptions for the devices so that patients can take them, but the rental cost is high and not usually covered by insurance, Watters said.

Recovery Force’s product deviates from those norms.

It’s smaller, discreet and works without the cumbersome pumps and cords. Those wearing it should be able to move more easily, improving the patient’s experience while protecting against life-threatening complications.

Recovery Force’s MAC device was developed following a poor first-hand experience with one of the pneumatic devices, said Jason Bobay, chief operating officer of Recovery Force.

Compression equipment currently in use at Eskenazi Hospital.

Pictured: Compression equipment currently in use at Eskenazi Hospital. Recovery Force’s Mobile Active Compressions (MAC) calf device, in contrast, is lightweight, quiet and wireless.

Matt Wyatt, founder of Recovery Force, watched his father struggle with a pneumatic compression device after having bilateral knee surgery, Bobay said. Wyatt witnessed the limitations of this old technology and the stifling effect it had on patient mobility.  He knew there had to be a better way to care for patients after a procedure, so he got to work developing one.

“It’s taken many iterations and revisions based on patient, physician, and caregiver feedback, but our engineers have done a phenomenal job delivering an exceptional device to enhance patient outcomes,” Bobay said.

Now the company is eager to move forward with this next phase of testing its creation.

The $1.8 million NIH grant was awarded as part of the competitive Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) process.

Over the next two years, Watters’ knee-replacement patients at Eskenazi who are eligible for the study will be selected at random to receive either a traditional pneumatic compression device or Recovery Force’s MAC device. The researchers will follow the patient throughout their hospital stay and for six weeks after, collecting data via remote monitoring, questionnaires and post-surgery office visits. Hopefully the data shows a decrease in instances of deep vein thrombosis and that patients are more willing to comply with lightweight device, Watters said.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Caitlin VanOverberghe

Caitlin VanOverberghe is a communications coordinator for the Indiana University School of Medicine, where she supports the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and the Department of Ophthalmology. Having earned degrees in journalism and telecommunications ...