J&J launches new, smaller, more precise vascular stapler for thoracic surgery

The Echelon Flex Powered Vascular Stapler--Courtesy of Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky only highlighted a handful of upcoming medical devices in the company's recent 2014 earnings call. Notably, one of them was the Echelon Flex Powered Vascular Stapler. J&J subsidiary Ethicon is launching the stapler in the U.S. at The Society of Thoracic Surgeons meeting this week in San Diego, CA.

The stapler has the narrowest anvil of any stapler on the market, as well as an articulated shaft and an advanced placement tip that are useful during delicate thoracic procedures, including video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery lobectomy for lung cancer.

J&J subsidiaries Ethicon and DePuy Synthes are both showcasing their thoracic products at the meeting.

"Thoracic surgery is performed in restricted narrow spaces around delicate vascular anatomy," Dr. Robert Cerfolio, professor of the division of cardiothoracic surgery and section chief of thoracic surgery at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, said in a statement.

He added, "This new powered thin lower profile stapler is designed to improve access, visibility and stability and delivers a secure, hemostatic staple line. It is a significant advance that may help surgeons avoid potential complications and improve patient outcomes."

The Endo Gia Curved Tip Reload with Tri-Staple Technology--Courtesy of Covidien

J&J offered stats comparing the Echelon Flex Powered Vascular Stapler to the Endo Gia Curved Tip Reload with Tri-Staple Technology from competitor Covidien ($COV). The former offers a blunt anvil that is 26% narrower, a shaft that is 26% thinner and 11% greater manual articulation in each direction. In addition, Echelon Flex provides an 83% reduction in tip movement during firing, J&J said.

The consumer, drug and device conglomerate can use all the help it can get on the medical device side, which shrank by 3.4% to $27.5 billion in 2014 compared to the prior year. Gorsky is counting on innovation--including 30 new filings between 2014 and 2016--as well as getting more creative in J&J's sales relationships with hospitals in order to use its scale to its advantage.

- here is the release

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