A Medical Device Daily

In a research report issued after she attended last week's annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS; Rosemont, Illinois) in Las Vegas, BMO Capital Markets (New York) med-tech analyst Joanne Wuensch said that while it was hard to measure the impact of the economy on elective procedures, "it appears that some physicians in some geographies are reporting a greater impact than others."

She said that when she asked AAOS attendees how long it will take for potential patients who have postponed surgeries to return, the estimated length of time cited ranged from six to nine months to several years.

"It has been pointed out," Wuensch said, "that while advanced technology has lowered the average age of [persons receiving] implants into the 50s from the 60s, it is possible that the economic environment could increase that age again – in other words, it could be quite some time before patients re-engage for reconstructive surgery."

Noting that the meeting attracted an estimated 15,000 physicians from around the globe, she added the comment that it seemed "better attended this year than last."

Among the other key takeaway points cited by Wuensch:

Zimmer's two-tiered booth, which included a level dedicated to trabecular metal, was bustling compared to last year's meeting, she said. The center of it was focused on physician presentations, recapturing technology and training as themes for the company.

"One of the more interesting new technologies on the [exhibit] floor was Zimmer's patient-specific instruments, which she said are expected to be FDA-approved by the end of March and launched in April.

Via a collaboration with Materialise (Leuven, Belgium), an MRI image individually creates the reconstructive implant, lowering operating room time and thus increasing throughput, she said, and decreasing the number of trays carried into the OR.

Other new Zimmer products cited in Wuensch's report included two new hip stems – with launch expected in the second half of 2009 – as well as an increased focus on new products launched in 2008, including a mobile bearing knee and trabecular metal tibial tray.

Stryker (Kalamazoo, Michigan) showcased its new camera system, the wireless 1080p system, including the Wise wireless monitor, which features no wires, and can be rolled around the OR. Wuensch wondered aloud, "Can I get one for my living room?"

She said she suspects that Stryker revenues/earnings estimates will need to be recalculated for the year, "as the year is likely more back end-loaded than anticipated and Street estimates are more uniformly dispersed."

Products that caught her eye at the Smith & Nephew Orthopaedics (S&N; Memphis, Tennessee) booth included its R3 Acetablular cup system, which has a Flush liner, and can be used with all bearing surfaces – poly on poly, ceramic on ceramic and metal on metal – increasing freedom in the OR.

Wuensch said the Journey Deuce Bi-compartmental knee was prominently on display at the S&N booth, a uni-compartmental knee offering that she said "likely is overshadowed to investors by the company's Birmingham hip resurfacing offering."

She said she continues to rate shares of Zimmer, Stryker and Smith & Nephew "Market Perform."

Unfortunately, Wuensch said, "the unknown may lead these stocks to trade sideways for awhile until there is clarity on elective procedures, hospital budgets and capital equipment purchases, and hospital inventory patterns.

Also at AAOS:

Conmed's (Utica, New York) Conmed Linvatec business unit launched six new devices in its Sports Medicine and Capital product lines at the meeting.

The products include:

– Hip Arthroscopy System. The Conmed Linvatec hip system includes the Bio Mini Revo suture anchor, suture passers, including the extended length Spectrum MVP, and a full line of extended length accessory instrumentation. Extended-length shaver blades, burs and a disposable hip kit, along with a slotted cannula system, offer surgeons a "comprehensive line of innovative solutions for arthroscopic labral repairs during hip arthroscopy," the company said.

– Paladin Suture Anchor. This suture anchor is the latest addition to Conmed Linvatec's rotator cuff repair-related product portfolio. The Paladin will be available in two sizes, and is offered with a self-drilling punch-tap for one-step insertion during shoulder repair. The product utilizes the company's bioabsorbable, self-reinforced poly lactic acid, demonstrating its commitment to bringing products to market with a "superior biomaterial advantage." The Paladin Suture Anchor is pending 510(k) approval.

– Zen Wireless Footswitch and Adaptor, which eliminates the need for wires from the footswitch to the power console units and incorporates the power of Zigbee communications technology to provide three-pedal control of Conmed Linvatec's power control consoles and handpieces. "This is important in a variety of orthopedic, spine and ENT applications because it creates valuable space within the operating room without the need for special hardware," the company said. The footswitch and adaptor are pending 510(k) approval.

– ReAct Arthroscopic Shaver Blades. Unlike conventional shaver blades that only cut by rotation, these new shaver blades have the ability to reciprocate while rotating. The company said the ReAct blade's hub design provides "a more aggressive and faster cutting action with unsurpassed resistance to clogging. This could potentially reduce the length of time for certain surgical procedures."

– Mpower 2 Battery Power System, the latest in the company's next-generation battery power systems for large and small bone orthopedic and spine surgical applications. It has been designed with Conmed Linvatec's sealed system to ensure a long period of reliable performance. New features include quick connect collet and intuitive mode switch allowing for ease of use.

– VP1600 Digital Documentation System, which expands on the company's leadership within true "High Definition" products, and is a cost-effective solution for surgeons vs. traditional pc-based image capture systems, it said.

• Medartis (Kennett Square, Pennsylvania) introduced its new Aptus Adaptive Watershed Plating System.

The company said the system has been made available in limited release and received "positive reviews" from surgeons who have used it. After working with the new Medartis system, Richard Gelberman, MD, professor and chairman of Washington University Orthopedics at Washington University School of Medicine (St. Louis), said, "There are several features of this new system that define its position as a third-generation, fixed-angle device: the advanced watershed design, the opportunity for site specific multi-axial fixation and the ease provided by having 2.5 mm screws throughout."

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