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The unexpected innovation of an in-cavity surgical light

Updated: May 3, 2023

Sometimes, the best ideas originate from the most unexpected sources.

The KLARO™ in vivo surgical lighting device is a clear example of how a serendipity moment from a surgeon can be the baseline for an invention of a simple yet highly impactful device.

The idea for such a device first occurred to Associate Professor Tan Ngian Chye some 8 years ago when he was still practicing at the National Cancer Centre of Singapore. While he was watching his daughter play with a toy rubber ball that lit up every time it bounced on the ground, he had his eureka moment. The idea came to him that perhaps having a light source that can come from within the body and illuminate directly at the tissue where he is operating at, could overcome his current challenges with surgical lighting.

In the operating room, good lighting is a key criterion for every surgery. However, current operating room lightings solutions such as overhead lights and headlamps present with certain limitations during operating procedures. For overhead lights used in the operating room, shadows are often cast within the operating field as the surgical team’s heads and operating tools block the path of light. While for headlamps, the beam of light does not move with the surgeon’s eye movement which can result in musculoskeletal disorders such as neck strains and headaches from directing the light at a certain position. Hence, Prof Tan’s solution of bringing the light source right to where the surgeon is operating on can eliminate the current surgical lighting limitations.

The process of Innovation

With this idea, Prof Tan brought together several clinicians and engineers to develop a prototype. Implementing the biodesign process for medical device innovation, the team went through multiple iterations and studies and consulted a variety of different specialties such as Head and Neck, Colorectal, and Urology.

In 2018, the final prototype, which was eventually named the KLARO™ in vivo surgical lighting device, was created. The device was jointly developed by Vivo Surgical Private Limited, Singapore General Hospital’s Medical Technology Office, National Cancer Centre Singapore, and Panasonic Lighting Europe.

In 2020, KLARO™ received approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Europe’s CE mark certification as well as from the Singapore Health Sciences Authority. “This is a made-in-Singapore product and a good example of how collaboration across different entities can lead to innovative solutions” mentioned Dr Kevin Koh, CEO of Vivo Surgical as he emphasized the importance of co-development partnerships while speaking during an interview with the Straits Times.

Always hoping to have better lighting in the operating room

As Prof Tan is a Head and Neck surgeon, lighting is a critical factor since he frequently operates in confined spaces that are deep and narrow such as in the oral cavity and the neck. Some of these procedures include maxillectomies and mandibulectomies which currently are difficult to illuminate.

With this new KLARO™ device, he is now able to provide optimal illumination within the surgical cavity by shining a light from within. Prof Tan believes that the device will allow him to better visualize where he is operating at and will be able to assist him in differentiating between normal tissues and pathological tissues.

The KLARO™ in cavity surgical lighting device has 4 lighting intensities, is bendable, and can be mounted onto various retractors in the Hospital. The disposable device is supplied sterile and will maintain a safe working temperature throughout its operating lifespan.

Hear more about what Associate Professor Tan Ngian Chye has to say.

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