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To determine the rate and extent of translation of innovative surgical devices from the laboratory to first-in-human studies, and to evaluate the factors influencing such translation.Innovative surgical devices have preceded many of the major advances in surgical practice. However, the process by which devices arising from academia find their way to translation remains poorly understood.All biomedical engineering journals, and the 5 basic science journals with the highest impact factor, were searched between January 1993 and January 2000 using the Boolean search term “surgery OR surgeon OR surgical”. Articles were included if they described the development of a new device and a surgical application was described. A recursive search of all citations to the article was performed using the Web of Science (Thompson-Reuters, New York, NY) to identify any associated first-in-human studies published by January 2015. Kaplan-Meier curves were constructed for the time to first-in-human studies. Factors influencing translation were evaluated using log-rank and Cox proportional hazards models.A total of 8297 articles were screened, and 205 publications describing unique devices were identified. The probability of a first-in-human at 10 years was 9.8%. Clinical involvement was a significant predictor of a first-in-human study (P = 0.02); devices developed with early clinical collaboration were over 6 times more likely to be translated than those without [RR 6.5 (95% confidence interval 0.9–48)].These findings support initiatives to increase clinical translation through improved interactions between basic, translational, and clinical researchers.