Millions of joint replacements are performed every year. Unfortunately, more than 50,000 patients in USA alone have their prosthetic joints fail due to infection, costing the healthcare system billions of dollars every year. Infection onset happens in days, and most patients don’t even realize they have a problem because they are unable to distinguish the pain of the surgery from infection. By the time symptoms present it is often too late to treat with antibiotics, leading to invasive and unreliable surgeries.
The Philadelphia-based startup Synotrac is developing an implantable sensor that actively detects infection after joint replacement surgery and wirelessly communicates and alerts the patient and their physician through the Synotrac smartphone app in real-time. Activated and operated using the app, measurements are automatically taken at regular intervals and securely transmitted via Bluetooth to the patient’s phone. The recorded data analyze the body’s immune response and is automatically plotted and compared with other measurements taken to give a dynamic picture of the joint’s healing process. It is further stored directly in the patient’s electronic health record, giving the patient’s surgeon and primary care physician the ability to track the healing progress over time and intervene immediately in the case of an infection.
The device, made entirely from biocompatible components and sealed with protective coating, is installed intraoperatively during joint replacement, adjacent to the synovial cavity, ensuring no additional surgery is required. The batteries of the device will last for the initial postoperative period, up to 6 months post surgery, when the patient is at the highest risk for infection. The startup is, however, working on a future solution where the phone will charge the device as it is taking measurements, so it will work indefinitely.
Currently, patients are tested with a combination of blood tests, x-rays and bacterial culture if general symptoms of an infection is developed. However, x-rays and blood tests are prone to false negatives, and cultures can take several days. And since it is often too late to treat infections with antibiotics by the time symptoms present, the current diagnostic options are unacceptable. Synotrac’s innovative technology help detect infection early, and enable treatment with antibiotics rather than invasive, costly revision surgeries. The following app communicate with both patients and physicians to not only enable less invasive and costly treatment options, but to minimize the need for postoperative appointments, significantly reducing healthcare costs. Most importantly, Synotrac can save implants, prevent revision surgery, allowing patients to resume normal activities faster and improve quality of life.
The technology has been extensively tested with in vitro models and Synotrac is in the process of obtaining FDA clearance, as well as preparing for their first in vivo studies. The startup is Venture for America alumni-founded, and won UBS Venture Catalyst Award in 2016. They have also been part of the DreamIt accelerator, and have so far raised $250,000 in pre-seed funding.