Drilling Down on Power Tools
Time to invest in a new handpiece? Keep these factors in mind.
Orthopods ask a lot from their handheld power tools. They have to be lightweight, well balanced and precise, and durable enough to withstand the daily grind of a physically demanding specialty. You’ll know it’s time to invest in new power tools if batteries fail mid-procedure, saw blades have dulled from repeated use or other components are showing visible signs of wear and tear. Here are some of the features to consider when shopping the latest options.
1 The juice
Power is the combination of torque (force exerted) and speed (revolutions or cycles over a given period of time) — and each orthopedic procedure calls for a different balance of the two. When you’re reaming the acetabulum for a hip replacement, for example, you want high torque and low speed, so the reamer bites into the bone. When you’re drilling, you want higher speed and less torque, so the tool doesn’t slip and injure surrounding tissue.
You can’t talk about a tool’s power without talking about its power source — meaning, battery, pneumatic or electric. I’m partial to battery-powered tools, because you don’t have to worry about cords, which may inadvertently contaminate the sterile field and are one more thing OR staff can trip over. Also, the advent of the lithium-ion battery means I don’t have to worry about whether the battery will have enough juice to get me through a long case. Although today’s batteries easily last through a 45-minute to hour-long joint replacement case, I always have a backup available in the event that the primary battery runs out of life mid-procedure.
Remember: Batteries are bound to lose their ability to hold a charge over time. That means you’ll face ongoing costs for purchasing replacements, which can run $200 or more. Ask your vendor about a battery’s expected lifespan and how it will stand up to the rigors of sterilization, so you can budget accordingly.