By Loralee Stevens, Special to the Business Journal
SANTA ROSA — About 400,000 Americans broke a collar bone last year. They tumbled off bicycles, tripped while jogging or walking and texting, fell out of trees and off horses.
“Clavicle fractures are on the increase as more people become more active,” said Charles Nelson, founder and chief operating officer of Sonoma Orthopedic Products (707-526-1335, sonomaorthopedics.com).
He and his team have come up with a new, simple method of treating complicated collar bone breaks using the previously developed product, the Sonoma CRx clavicle nail. It’s the latest iteration of the company’s flagship products.
Sonoma Orthopedics pioneered a minimally-invasive method of healing problematic fractures of the wrist, arm or collar bone that would ordinarily require surgery, with the attendant risks of blood loss and soft tissue damage.
Using a guide wire through a small incision, physicians place a flexible implant inside the bone after drilling channels in each side of the break. The implant, once in place, becomes rigid, holding the fracture securely without the use of metal plates. A small screw prevents rotation of the broken bone while it’s healing.
New instrumentation allows physicians to visualize the fracture before drilling the channels, eliminating the risk of drilling too far or severing a nerve. It was developed with lots of input from customer doctors, according to Rick Epstein, Sonoma Orthopedic president and CEO.
“Our customers’ experience with our products is crucially important to us, and their feedback was a key factor in the development of the procedure,” he said.
Traditional treatment usually calls for the insertion of a metal plate, an intrusive and often painful solution that requires further surgery to remove.
“The new instruments in the insertion procedure have greatly simplified and made more robust the implantation of the Sonoma CRx clavicle nail,” said orthopedic trauma surgeon Regis L. Renard, M.D., M.S., of Patchogue, N.Y. “Because the procedure is minimally invasive, my patients get back to sport activity and work faster, and with less pain and no plate hardware irritation issues.”
The new method, patented as the Velox procedure, replaces the original clavicle technique invented by the Sonoma Orthopedics team.
“Our first clavicle system required several steps that we’ve now eliminated, making the process even more streamlined,” said Mr. Nelson, who is the named inventor on 12 patents protecting products and techniques he developed for several orthopedic device companies.
He founded Sonoma Orthopedics in 2004. The company doesn’t disclose revenues, but it relocated two years ago from Larkfield into a much larger space near Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport.
According to Mr. Nelson the company has customers — physicians, hospitals, HMOs and other health care providers — throughout North and South America and Europe.
He expects the new clavicle technique and its instrumentation to be a big seller in Europe, where large numbers of people ride and fall off bicycles.
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