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Dr. Lee Berger creates RFID chip called the Ortho-Tag to Manage Implant Patient Records

By Don E. Smith Jr.; Email the author August 4, 2011

It can be terrifying moment.

You’ve had knee or joint replacement surgery but something feels a bit odd. Is there something wrong with the implant?

  But you’re out of state or on vacation or business out of the country, far from your doctor’s office. With the records of the implant in another part of the country, what can be done? Dr. Lee Berger has the answer and it is a solution the size of a pen point called the Ortho-Tag.

Berger, a Franklin Lakes resident and with an orthopedic surgery office in Fair Lawn, is making it easier for persons with joint replacements to carry their medical records.

Doctor Lee Berger demonstrates the Ortho-Tag wand on an artificial joint. Credit DonE.SmithJr.

Berger, in association with the University of Pittsburgh and Doctor Marlin Mickle, created a microchip that contains the medical history of the joint and even keeps records of the movement of the knee joint. Berger explained he saw the need first-hand as he treated patients where he is on staff at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood and St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Wayne.

Berger said Mickle, who heads the University of Pittsburgh’s RFID Center of Excellence, has been the major influence in getting the Ortho-Tag off the ground. Berger said he has been flying out to Pittsburgh once a month to work with Mickle and it has proven a success.

“Once an implant is put into the patient there is always a need for paper records and if the patient needs it in a hurry, the Ortho-Tag will be able to provide the information,” said Berger. “

The tag keeps the history of the artificial joint and records the range of movement that will help physical therapists treat the patient. And it will act as an early warning system for infection of the joint.”

Berger explained the Ortho-Tag is a passive radio frequency identification (RFID) chip that does not use a battery and does not contain a power source. He said the chip is only powered with a special wand that can read the tag.

He said that medicine is now improving and prolonging the quality of life for patients as they get older. He believes that joint and knee replacements will continue being performed in the future.

With the increase in records and means of records keeping, he said that the chip will only be implanted with the express permission of the patient. He said it is important to follow the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws to keep the patient’s information private. The database will also be secure from hacking and other people seeking to gain access to the records for less than scrupulous purposes, he added.

“Patient privacy was very much on our mind as we made this,” said Berger.

Should a patient not wish for the Ortho-Tag to be attached into the implant, it is possible to carry a card with the microchip in a plastic card, similar to a library card, that keeps the patient’s medical history.

In the meantime, Berger’s next step is approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He and his partner, Mickle, founded Ortho-Tags, Inc. in April and now have an application before the FDA.

Berger said the ultimate goal is for the well-being of the patient. “We are using the Ortho-Tag for hip, knee and spine implants, and in the future the Ortho-Tag will be able to be used for other medical implants,” said Berger.