Sustainable Laparoscopic Surgery for Low-Income Countries: FDA Approval and Business Model for Access (2019-2020)


In the 1980s, the field of surgery advanced with the development of laparoscopy. This technology allows surgeons to make two to four small incisions and operate with an intra-abdominal camera and instruments. Benefits of laparoscopic surgery compared to open surgery include decreases in pain, recovery time, intra-abdominal scar tissue, wound infections, abdominal scar size, wound breakdown and length of hospital stay. It is routinely performed in high-income countries; however, the surgery is expensive and demands a great amount of infrastructure to maintain equipment.

Patients in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) with appendicitis, gallbladder disease, intestinal problems, various cancers and reproductive problems would benefit from laparoscopic surgery. Many patients undergo impoverishing health expenditure and lost wages recovering from surgery, and laparoscopy would reduce recovery time, enabling patients to return home and to work more quickly.

Infection is also a concern in LMICs, as antibiotics are expensive and the surgical ward is often a large room where 30 to 50 patients are recovering together. Laparoscopic surgery would render smaller incisions and shorter stays in the hospital, minimizing postsurgical infection.

Project Description

The ultimate goal of this multiyear Bass Connections project is to develop a low-cost, reusable laparoscope suitable for use in LMICs.

In 2019-2020, this project team will advance the device from the prototype stage to a viable commercial product for patients in LMICs. Movement into the production phase will require the following tasks:

  • Analysis of feedback from Ugandan surgeons: The project team will make a trip to Uganda in May 2019 to present the laparoscopic system to LMIC surgical colleagues who will be the end users of the product. Based on their feedback and the performance of the laparoscopic system within the LMIC environment, the study team will modify the design.
  • Protection of intellectual property: Team members will work with the Duke Office of Licensing and Ventures to file patent applications for the relevant innovative features.
  • FDA approval: The new laparoscope should be eligible for approval under the 510(K) pathway since we can provide evidence that the proposed technology is “substantially equivalent” to a previously approved laparoscope. The prototype must be thoroughly tested for biological and electrical safety, image quality and failure modes and effects.
  • Creation of a business model: The team will develop a strategy to move from technology to product, which will involve market research, competitive analysis, identifying key stakeholders and early customers, an operation plan, marketing and launch strategy and a tiered pricing strategy for high-income countries compared to LMICs.

Anticipated Outputs

Revised laparoscopic system prototype; provisional patent applications; FDA applications; business model for dissemination of laparoscopic system in high- and low-income countries


Fall 2019 – Summer 2020

  • Fall 2019: Review feedback on prototype laparoscope and identify necessary changes; review regulatory pathway and previous FDA 510(k) submissions; create invention disclosure form (IDF); begin developing business model (e.g., conduct market research, competitive analysis)
  • Spring 2019: Complete testing of new prototype; complete failure mode testing and effect analysis; prepare 510(k) document; submit IDF; apply for a provisional patent; complete marketing and launch plan; develop plan to assess usability
  • Summer 2020: Field visit to Uganda

Team Outputs to Date

Sustainable Laparoscopic Surgery for Low- and Middle-Income Countries (poster by Natalie Rozman, Enakshi Sunassee, Aryaman Gupta, Cayla Schuval, Arushi Biswas, Bailey Knight, Shreyas Kulkarni, Meredith Brown, Tiff Jiang, Sarah Hubner, Samantha Kost, Caroline Maloney, Pratik Doshi, Judy Ho, Sarah Dunn Phillips, Jenna Mueller, Tamara Fitzgerald)

ReadyLift: Novel Technique for Gas-independent Laparoscopic Procedures in LMICs (poster by Aryaman Gupta, Erin Brown, presented at Global Health Showcase, Duke University, November 4, 2019)

Sustainable Laparoscopic Surgery for Low-income Countries (poster by Natalie Rozman, Arushi Biswas, Cayla Schuval, Enakshi Sunassee, Sarah Phillips, Jenna Meuller, presented at Global Health Showcase, Duke University, November 4, 2019)

ReadyView Software with Tele-mentoring for Sustainable Laparoscopic Surgery in Low-income Countries (poster by Shreyas Kulkarni, Meredith Brown, presented at Global Health Showcase, Duke University, November 4, 2019)


Low-Cost Laproscopy for Global Surgery

    This Team in the News

    Designing Tomorrow, One Healthcare Innovation at a Time

    See related teams, Increasing Access to Laparoscopic Surgery in Low-income Countries (2020-2021) and Low-cost Laparoscopic Surgery with Tele-mentoring (2018-2019).

    Bass Connections team members.

    Team Leaders

    • Tamara Fitzgerald, School of Medicine-Surgery: Pediatric General Surgery
    • Jenna Mueller, Pratt School of Engineering-Biomedical Engineering

    /graduate Team Members

    • Peiching Ho, Business Administration-MBA
    • Natalie Rozman, Electrical/Computer Engg-PHD
    • Enakshi Sunassee, Biomedical Engineering-PHD

    /undergraduate Team Members

    • Arushi Biswas, Biomedical Engineering (BSE)
    • Erin Brown, Biomedical Engineering (BSE)
    • Meredith Brown
    • Aryaman Gupta, Biomedical Engineering (BSE)
    • Sarah Hubner, Political Science (AB), Global Health (AB2)
    • Tiffany Jiang, Public Policy Studies (AB), Global Health (AB2)
    • Bailey Knight, Biology (BS), Global Health (AB2)
    • Samantha Kost, Public Policy Studies (AB)
    • Shreyas Kulkarni, Computer Science (BS)
    • Caroline Maloney, Biology (BS)
    • Cayla Schuval

    /yfaculty/staff Team Members

    • Sarah Dunn Phillips, Margolis Center for Health Policy
    • Amos Loh Hong Pheng, Duke-NUS Medical School

    /zcommunity Team Members

    • Julius Mugaga, Makerere University - Kampala
    • John Sekabira, Mulago Hospital, Uganda
    • Robert Ssekitoleko, Makerere University-Kampala