In many ways, the medical industry has always been about the promise of tomorrow. Unlike the realm of computer science where new models and software are released at a positively dizzying rate, things traditionally move a little slower in medicine. That is because the path from scientific discovery to creation of a treatment or diagnostic tool that can actually be applied to human patients is often long and arduous. In the medical industry, our vision often races ahead of the available technology. But that is part of what makes medicine a fascinating field – it constantly offers glimpses into a bright future of innovation that dazzles us with the thought of how many lives will be improved and saved. So what are some of the things we have to look forward to? What does the medical technology of tomorrow look like?
It’s Less Invasive
Just a decade ago, patients undergoing surgery could expect to walk away from the ordeal with a sizable scar that would forever haunt them with memories of their medical scare. Invasive surgical procedures also generally involve higher risk and longer recovery times. Sometimes, structural damage from the surgery itself can necessitate the use of pain killers for the remainder of a patient’s life. All of that is changing however, with the increased use of minimally invasive surgical procedures like laproscopy. Laproscopic surgery involves only a few small incisions to accommodate the laproscopic tools and cameras. As a result, patients enjoy less pain, decreased blood loss, minimal scarring, and shorter post-op recovery time.
But medical technology is taking the idea of minimally invasive surgery a step further by introducing medical robotics to the operating room. Medical robotics can be controlled remotely by a trained surgeon through the manipulation of hand and foot pedals. The exact movements of the surgeon are scaled down and mimicked by the robotic instruments. Surgery performed using robotics may provide more precise results.
Back in 2001, American surgeons in New York were able to successfully remove the gallbladder of a woman in France, 3,870 miles away, using robotics. Although this technology has been around for awhile, it is just now beginning to see real promise for implementation, particularly in facilitating surgical procedures in remote areas of the world.
It Works with the Body
Hypoplastic left-heart syndrome is a devastating disease that affects approximately 1,000 newborns in the U.S. every year. Genetic abnormalities cause the left ventricle of the heart, the part responsible for the high pressure pumping of blood to the body, to be dysfunctional. Conventional treatment involves surgery to reconfigure the circulation of the heart, so the right ventricle essentially takes over for the left. This places an unnaturally high workload on the right ventricle which explains why 30% of individuals suffering from this condition fail to reach adulthood. A novel strategy is being tested however that opens up the obstructed valves and increases circulation to the deprived left ventricle, stimulating its growth. Basically, the procedure triggers the body’s natural growth processes.
Sometimes, the greatest medical advancements stem from a relatively simple idea. The revolutionary Veti-Gel is a good example of that. Its developers sought to solve a basic but life-threatening problem – excessive blood loss. Their cream mimics the body’s natural extracellular matrix in order to encourage almost immediate clotting which could potentially save millions of lives.
It’s Tech Friendly
If you have a smartphone, you may soon have access to a slew of new medical technology. Need to take an electrocardiogram? There’s an app for that. The technology, called AliveCor, consists of a device and electrodes that attach to an iPhone. It sends readings of the patient’s heart rhythm to the app which allows the doctor to then assess the information. There is a new version of this technology in the works that could be used by a patient to record potentially dangerous arrhythmias that occur intermittently, and thus would be difficult for a physician to observe during a clinic visit. From apps that track the growth of moles to apps that take pictures of a child’s inner ear to remotely diagnose ear infections, this area of medical technology shows considerable promise for future innovation and application.
Advancements in medical equipment, diagnostic methods, treatment options, and monitoring practices all paint a hopeful picture for the future of medical technology.
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Written by Matthew Morgal. Matthew assists health care professionals and physicians in their purchase of medical equipment worldwide.