Altru’s Alan W. Johnson, MD, MS, Invents Jaw Fracture Device
Grand Forks, N.D. – In August 2012, Dr. Alan W. Johnson, a head and neck surgeon at Altru Health System, began the nearly five-year journey from a pencil sketch and an idea, to what is now the first technology developed at the University of Minnesota’s Medical Devices Center to gain FDA clearance. His invention, Minne Ties®, is a noninvasive solution used for securing the jaw to help it heal after a fracture.
Dr. Johnson developed his technology within a group of eight fellows as part of the Innovation Fellows Program at the University’s Medical Devices Center. “We came together from various careers and backgrounds in a sort of think tank,” states Dr. Johnson. After he built a series of prototypes, which he often tested on his own teeth, he had to navigate the patent and legal processes, build a business model and pitch his concept to companies to get it licensed for development.
The final product is now on the market and offers a safer, more efficient alternative to existing methods of immobilizing the jaw for jaw fracture care. Minne Ties® have shown to reduce application time from almost one hour to approximately 12 minutes, which saves on costly operating room and surgeon time. This new device, made with a medical grade flexible polymer, is less painful for patients than the traditional metal wiring method and can be applied in a clinic setting for less challenging fractures.
Now, Dr. Johnson serves as a clinical investigator for the device. He states, “The first seven patients treated with Minne Ties® were my patients at Altru and all had good outcomes. Now there are other studies and clinical applications happening in different states across the country.”