Accidental inventor

Cardiovascular technologist creates device to improve procedures

Gary Goff is still getting used to being an inventor. Goff, who’s been a cardiovascular technologist for 28 years, invented the RAD BOARD, a piece of equipment used by doctors all over the country to perform radial catheterizations.

“I never set out to be an inventor. I was just trying to solve a problem,” said Goff, CVT, who works in the catheterization lab at Northside Hospital-Cherokee in Canton.

Goff’s unlikely road to inventor began when he was a medical corpsman in the U.S. Navy, where he discovered his passion for cardiology. After he retired from the military in 2006, he worked as a cardiovascular technologist in hospitals.

Over the years, he assisted in various heart diagnostic tests, working his way up to heart catheterizations, which he calls “the gold standard.”

“This procedure is more commonly done by threading tubes up through the body from the femoral artery near the groin,” he said. “We use imaging to detect artery blockages and open them up with stents or angioplasty when possible.”

In recent years, Goff has seen more doctors perform radial heart catheterizations through an artery in the wrist, rather than  through the femoral artery.

“Research shows that it is more comfortable for patients and has fewer complications. Instead of having to rest for four to six hours after the femoral procedure, they can be up walking around after an hour,” he said.

To perform the procedure, doctors were using a thin, flimsy board attached to a table to rest the arm.

“It was like a popsicle stick and didn’t provide enough support. Nor did it hold the equipment needed or contain the blood, which often pooled onto the floor during the procedure,” Goff said.

Another problem occured when technicians had to hold wires because there was no place to put them on the board. At times, blood dripped on the wires and contaminated them, forcing the doctor to restart the procedure.

After one such incident, Goff told a doctor he could make a device that would be an improvement. He made several trips to Home Depot to find materials, and came up with a thin sheet of plywood sandwiched between formica.

“It was sturdier and big enough to hold the necessary equipment. Not having to hold things would allow me to assist better,” he said.

The first board was an improvement, but Goff kept taking it home and modifying it. He added a layer of lead-free Xenolite TB (a composite material used to protect against radiation from the imaging). He also added round pegs to the side to help stabilize the board.

When covered with a surgical drape, the cloth-covered RAD BOARD forms a natural reservoir that captures blood during procedures.

“After about 12 modifications, I finally made a perfect prototype, and the doctor’s loved it,” Goff said. “They’d say, 'I want Gary’s board,’ so the hospital asked me to make three more. As word spread, it seemed like I was making boards in the garage every weekend.”

After a year, colleagues suggested that he patent the board, and co-founded a company to manufacture it.  He formed Radial Assist, LLC, with three partners, Dr. Van Crisco (a cardiologist), Brian Hess (an executive with 27 years of medical device experience) and Sheryl Hess, who serves as CFO and runs day-to-day operations.

Since 2010, the product has been registered with the Food and Drug Administration, and is almost through the patent process. Goff has added two other products, the RAD REST (a disposable, soft foam cradle to hold an arm during a procedure) and a RAD BOARD extension that allows for more space and alternate positions for an arm.

Goff has also had the RAD BOARD tested by physicists to prove that it reduces scatter radiation , making the procedure safer for doctors and staff  .

“It’s been a lot of hard work and expense getting the business going, but we’re making a little money now and doing fine. It still thrills me when I hear that we’ve added another hospital or state; it’s in 46 states, so far,” he said.

Goff has gotten plenty of positive feedback from  doctors.

“They thank me for inventing the board and say that it’s made them want to perform more radial catheterizations,” he said. “That affects patient safety and satisfaction, and [it] makes me feel good.”