Brevard Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. John Perry Develops Revolutionary New Surgical Drill

By  //  March 25, 2016

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EDITOR’S NOTE: We are delighted to welcome Dr. John Perry, a board certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon, who has practiced in Brevard County for over 5 years, as a guest columnist.

Dr. Jim Palermo
Dr. Jim Palermo

He is co-founder of Smart Medical Devices, Inc. (SMD), a medical device startup company whose goal is to design and develop the tools needed to make surgical procedures safer and simpler for both patients and surgeons.

The revolutionary technology that his SMD team has designed and developed takes orthopedic surgical precision and efficiency, and patient safety to a new level.

— Dr. Jim Palermo, Editor-in-Chief

SMARTdrill™ Technology Takes Surgical Precision, Efficiency and Patient Safety To a New Level

Drs anderson and Perry SMD
Co-founders of Smart Medical Devices, Inc., Dr. Wayne Anderson, left, and Dr. John Perry introduced their revolutionary SMARTdrill™ at the recent AAOS annual conference in Orlando, generating a tremendous amount of interest and support from many of the 20,000 orthopedic surgeons from around the world who attended.

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Ten years ago in California, Dr. Wayne Anderson, Dr. Michael Karch and I became frustrated with the existing standard-of-care in the orthopedic operating room.

Our concern centered around the inefficient and imprecise drilling process and equipment that surgeons had to use to drill holes in bone and place screws and plates when stabilizing and aligning fractures. The standard technique was not only inefficient, but potentially dangerous.

Smart Medical Devices Inc. (SMD) was born from this frustration and concern, and our belief that together we could design and develop an orthopedic drill that was smarter and safer.


The existing orthopedic surgical drill technology is no more sophisticated than in what you can buy at Home Depot. The presently available handheld drill used in orthopedic operating rooms to power through the bone is very similar to an off-the-shelf Ryobi, Milwaukee or Dewalt, the precision of which leaves a great deal to desire considering the variability and complexity of the “jobs” facing orthopedic “carpenters.”

The presently available handheld drill used in orthopedic operating rooms to power through the bone is very similar to an off-the-shelf drill you can buy at the hardware store. The precision and efficiency needed for optimum safety is sorely lacking.

Advancing a presently available operating room drill into bone relies on pressure applied by the surgeon and safe control depends on the surgeon’s ability to “feel” where the drill bit is.

Unfortunately, no matter how skilled the surgeon may be, the drill bit frequently will plunge past the back side of the bone (90 percent of surgeons admit they plunge on a regular basis), putting anatomic structures behind the bone at risk.

Then the surgeon is forced to use a wire feeler gauge to measure the length of the drill hole and estimate the length of the screw that needs to be placed.

The wire feeler gauge is always tricky to use, and many surgeons rely on an X-ray of the wire feeler gauge in the bone to confirm its position. Another X-ray is often needed to confirm that the selected screw does not stick out too far, a complication that can potentially irritate the tendons and nerves on the other side of the bone.

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For many fracture surgeries, this tedious and time-consuming procedure will be done for every single screw, sometimes taking place more than a dozen times during a single surgery, exposing both patient and physician to radiation that could be avoided with the use of a more precise and efficient drill.


SMD’s patented technology in the SMARTdrill™ provides surgeons with a wealth of drilling information and a degree of control that far exceeds anything offered by existing surgical drilling technology.
SMD’s patented technology in the SMARTdrill™ provides surgeons with a wealth of drilling information and a degree of control that far exceeds anything offered by existing surgical drilling technology.

We put together the SMD team of diverse specialties in orthopaedic surgery, engineering and business innovation that is committed to the design and development of surgeon-designed 21st century tools that address these “drill problems” and producing revolutionary tools that improve surgery in the hands of every surgeon.

Focusing on a better way to drill holes safely, measure distance easily and place screws with confidence, the SMARTdrill™ was born.

SMD’s patented technology provides surgeons with a wealth of drilling information and a degree of control that far exceeds anything offered by prior drilling technology. The SMARTdrill™ is the first handheld drill in the world with the capability to measure real-time drilling depth and bone density while simultaneously eliminating drill bit plunge.


SMD launched SMARTdrill™ at the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) annual conference in Orlando, Florida, which was attended by over 20,000 orthopedic surgeons this year.

AAOS’ annual conference is the premier orthopaedic surgery convention in the world, and its size allows American orthopedic surgeons to intermingle with colleagues from around the globe. While at the AAOS conference, surgeons learn new techniques, discover new technologies and share both experience and knowledge with colleagues.

“Every year I come to the AAOS meeting and take home one ‘great thing.’ This year, it is the SMARTdrill™.” – Dr. Ram Prabhoo, President-Elect India Orthopaedic Association

During this year’s AAOS gathering, a visiting surgeon from India, Dr. Rammohan Prabhoo, President-Elect of the 42,000 orthopaedic surgeon strong India Orthopaedic Association, praised SMARTdrill™, saying, “Every year I come to the AAOS meeting and take home one ‘great thing.’ This year, it is the SMARTdrill™.”

Our Smart Medical Device team considered the AAOS conference to be the perfect venue to launch SMARTdrill™. Moving forward, we consider Brevard County, with its abundance of bioengineering resources and favorable business environment, a great possible locale for our company to grow.


I consider it a great opportunity to develop, engineer and manufacture this new technology in Brevard County, which, as it has for so many newcomers, warmly embraced my family.

The very highly regarded local biomedical engineering resources available at institutions such as FIT, make Brevard an ideal location for expansion of Smart Medical Devices, Inc.

My family and I moved to Brevard County five years ago, leaving California to be closer to relatives in Florida. Over time, I have come to appreciate and understand the amazing medical and technology companies that call Brevard County home.

We have a fantastic education system here, including the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), the University of Central Florida (UCF), and the Eastern Florida State College (EFSC).

Not to mention, all these intellectual resources reside in the shadow of NASA, which is the pinnacle of scientific achievement and progress.

So I couldn’t imagine a better place to launch a new medical technology, especially one that will change orthopedic surgery forever, making it safer, smarter and simpler.


It is very clear that most surgeons recognize that present surgical drill technology has its limitations, and that we have limitations as human beings.

At AAOS it was hard to find a surgeon who wasn’t excited about the benefits of the SMARTdrill™. Those who recognize their limitations quickly and intuitively understand how the drill works.

In their first try, surgeons witnessed the drill stop their plunge, measure the bone depth accurately and precisely record drilling energy and bone density, as demonstrated in the SMD video below:

During the conference, the SMD team asked surgeons to answer a few questions. The poll revealed clearly that many surgeons share SMD’s concern and openly recognize the limitations of present drill technology. Some surgeons wondered why a technology that fulfills the functions of SMARTdrill™ has not been designed before.

It took years and the work of three physicians to create this new technology. Anytime a new technology is introduced there is a tendency to be skeptical and resistance is not uncommon.

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So when we built SMARTdrill™, we made great efforts to answer the questions surgeons and patients have about SMARTdrill™ and developed a comprehensive website at: for the purpose of educating surgeons and patients.

Physicians are ethically committed to doing the best they can for their patients with the technology at hand. SMARTdrill™ will change the way surgeons operate forever and ensure better, safer surgical outcomes for our patients.


Dr. John Perry is a board certified and fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeon and a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. He is Co-Founder of Smart Medical Devices, Inc. and serves as Director of the Scientific Advisory Board. As Director of the Scientific Advisory Board, he is facilitating the transfer of SMARTdrill™ technology to surgical suites.

Dr. John Perry
Dr. John Perry

Dr. Perry graduated with highest distinction from the University of Michigan in 1986, graduated cum laude from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1991, completed an orthopedic surgery residency at the University of Hawaii in 1999 and a fellowship at Duke University in 2000.

Dr. Perry led the Orthopaedic Service at Mammoth Hospital in Mammoth Lakes, California for 10 years. During his tenure at Mammoth, Dr. Perry built the S.P.O.R.T. center and established a fellowship in orthopaedic fracture care, complex athletic injuries and reconstruction and served for over a decade as a team physician for the United States Ski and Snow Board Team. Dr. Perry now practices in Melbourne, Florida with the Atlantic Orthopedic Group. He specializes in complex reconstruction, joint arthroplasty, complex soft tissue reconstructions/arthroscopies and bone malunion, bone deformity correction and bone salvage surgeries.