Researcher in focus – Anne-Sophie Blau

Researcher in focus – Anne-Sophie Blau

Anne-Sophie Blau is an engineer with 15 years of experience in the nuclear industry and then medical devices. She is a research and development project manager in Zimmer Biomet Robotics, in charge of development of new robotic platforms and computer-assisted solutions for Spine, Brain and Orthopaedic surgeries.

 

OPN: As a researcher in focus, could you tell us more about your job and training background in this field?

A-SB: I’m managing development projects of new robotic platforms and computer assisted solutions for Spine, Brain and Orthopaedic surgeries. I coordinate multiple engineering teams who work across software, hardware, testing, system engineering, as well as operations and quality teams to design and release the product in accordance with the required quality level, user needs, project deadlines and budget. I previously worked in the nuclear industry, engineering operating systems for nuclear facilities where my speciality was human factors engineering to design and build safe and efficient Human-Machine Interfaces.

 

OPN: What are you currently working on?

A-SB: The team is working on the design of a new medical device that offers assisted navigation for spine procedures which allows the surgeon to display and visualise their instruments in spine in real-time on the patient images. Surgery is made easier by greater visibility of the evolving instruments combined with the planning data.

 

OPN: What could your research mean for the patient experience, management strategies and surgical outcomes looking forward?

A-SB: The innovative robotic platforms developed at Zimmer Biomet Robotics give surgeons the ability to manually guide and manipulate instruments with great precision, within the limits established at the planning stage. The system interacts with the surgeon without changing their usual operating habits, while at the same time giving all the advantages of robotic movement: repeatability and precision.

The robotic surgical assistance and computer-assisted systems are designed to allow less invasive and safer surgical procedures that benefit patients and to contribute to increased performance of health systems through more efficient time management and improved cost controls.

 

OPN: What’s the next step in your research?

A-SB: The next steps are to validate the design with Spine surgeons during a human specimen lab in the US and submit the 510(k) file to the FDA.

 

OPN: How do you think the future looks within the field of orthopaedic surgery and what are your predictions for the year ahead?

A-SB: Robotic assisted surgeries will become the gold standard of orthopaedic surgeries. These surgeries can be more precise[1][2] and less invasive[3], and with fewer complications[4]. Altogether, this can reduce length of stay[5][6] and help patients to patients to feel pain-free more quickly[7].

 

OPN: As a woman working in a traditionally male environment, do you think enough is being done to implement diversity, equality and inclusion within the field of Research and Development? How could opportunities for women be improved?

A-SB: I see that a lot of actions are put in place by companies to create more diversity, equality and inclusion and I feel there is a real progress. There could be more effort to develop and promote more women and diverse candidates to senior roles who can then be “role models” – and I’m convinced quotas can help to reach that goal faster.

Above all, actions have to be done earlier, before the students get their degree. That’s why I’m acting with an association called “Femmes Ingénieures” (Women in Engineering) to explain my studies and my job to girls in classrooms so that they can say “why not me?” and choose a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).

 

References

[1] Lonjon N, Chan-Seng E, Costalat V, Bonnafoux B, Vassal M, Boetto J (2015) Robot-assisted spine surgery: feasibility study through a prospective case-matched analysis. Eur Spine J Published online: 10 January.

[2] Parratte, S., et al. Accuracy of New Robotically assisted Technique for Total Knee Arthroplasty: A Cadaveric Study.The Journal of Arthroplasty. 2019, 34(11): 2799 2803. Cadaveric studies are not necessarily indicative of clinical results. Parratte, S., et al. Instability After Total Knee Arthroplasty.Journal of Bone Joint Surgery (America). 90(1): 184, 2008. Cadaveric testing is not necessarily indicative of clinical performance.

[3] Phan K, Rao PJ, Kam AC, Mobbs RJ (2015) Minimally invasive versus open transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion for treatment of degenerative lumbar disease: systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur Spine J 24:1017–1030

[4] Vazan M, Gempt J, Meyer B, Buchmann N, Ryang YM (2017) Minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion versus open transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion: a technical description and review of the literature. Acta Neurochir 159:1137–1146

[5] Hyun SJ, Kim KJ, Jahng TA, Kim HJ (2017) Minimally Invasive Robotic Versus Open Fluoroscopic-guided Spinal Instrumented Fusions. SPINE Volume 42, Number 6, pp 353–358

[6] Wong CH, Kotani Y, Tochio J, Takeda H, Takano M, Iwasaki N. (2017) Comparison of Intraoperative Radiation Exposure for O-Arm Intraoperativect vs. C-Arm Image Intensifier in Minimally Invasive Lumbar Fusion. Clin Surg.; 2: 1558.

[7] Boys, J. A., Alicuben, E. T., DeMeester, M. J., Worrell, S. G., Oh, D. S., Hagen, J. A., & DeMeester, S. R. (2016). Public perceptions on robotic surgery, hospitals with robots, and surgeons that use them. Surgical endoscopy, 30(4), 1310–1316. 2016. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00464-015-4368-6

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