PEORIA — A Peoria doctor's medical invention has been used successfully for the first six times in Peoria and Tampa, Fla. 

Dr. Bob Smouse, an interventional radiologist, received FDA approval last year for the ConvertX, a device that will simplify the way patients with blocked ureters are treated.

The ConvertX is, as its name implies, able to convert from one function to another, eliminating the need for a second invasive surgery after the ConvertX is inserted into a patient.

The device has been used twice so far, three times each at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center and at Tampa General Hospital. Dr. Tim Whitehead at OSF was the first doctor to use and convert the device in a human patient, which he did the last week of June. After reviewing the patient's case — a woman whose ureter, the duct between the kidney and the bladder, was completely blocked because of cancer — he immediately knew she'd be a good candidate for the ConvertX.

"This was a perfect case for it, I thought," Whitehead said. 

"It worked great," he said, lamenting only that the device isn't available in other sizes. 

Patients with such a blockage would traditionally have a pair of procedures to treat the block: first installation of a catheter to drain the kidney to an external bag and a second procedure to deploy a stent and allow urine to flow through the ureter. The ConvertX is designed to change shape with the pull of a few strings and wires to fulfill both functions.

After the ConvertX was inserted into Whitehead's patient, she returned a week later to have the device converted. Rather than undergo a second anesthesia and invasive procedure, Whitehead was able to convert the device in a few seconds on an exam table.

"She was like, 'That's it?' She didn't even feel that I was doing anything, even when I pulled the external portion of the tube out. She didn't feel anything," Whitehead said. "I think she was pretty satisfied with the end result."

While Smouse is the physician who came up with the idea, he has yet to use the device himself in one of his patients. His company, BrightWater Medical — whose largest investor is OSF Ventures — is seeking physician feedback in this "soft launch" phase. The device will soon be rolled out within all hospitals in the OSF HealthCare organization, with full commercialization expected in September. 

Smouse has instead been focused on building the business' sales force and training his fellow physicians and other providers who will be using the device.

"The concept is very simple, but the impact on patients is really high," Smouse said. "You get that jaw-dropping, 'aha' moment from physicians who are like, 'Oh, that's just too simple. Why didn't somebody think of this 20 years ago?'" 

Smouse is also working toward approval in the U.S. and Europe of the ConvertX and a similar device the company has designed to perform a similar function in the liver. Smouse expects the second FDA approval could come in early 2018.

"If a device offers a better clinical outcome and it's easy to use, that's pretty nice," Smouse said.

Laura Nightengale is the Journal Star's health and lifestyle reporter. She can be reached at 686-3181 or lnightengale@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauranight.