Top 10 Medical Technologies
Past, Present, and Future
Today, technology plays an important role in every industry and aspect of life. Medical technology is a field where innovation plays a crucial role in the sustainability and advancement of health. The dependence on medical technology and its advancement cannot be overstated, and as a result, health care practitioners can continue to find ways to improve their practice and/or research for better diagnoses, surgical procedures, treatments, and improved patient care. From innovations like adhesive bandages and ankle braces, to MRI machines and prosthetic limbs, technology has undoubtedly made an incredible impact on medicine.
The integration of advanced medical equipment is intended to improve the quality of health care delivery through earlier diagnosis, less invasive treatment, and reductions in hospital stays and rehabilitation times. Medical technology broadly includes medical devices, information technology, biotech, and health care services.
Below are the top ten technological innovations that have made huge strides in the medical field:
1. 3D Medical Printing
3D medical printing is already making strides in the world of medical technology. For example, through the e-NABLING the Future project, a global network of volunteers and doctors give to those who need prosthetic hands.
Bioprinting is based on bio-ink, which is made up of living cell structures. Bioprinting research is being developed to print different types of tissue, while inkjet printing, the type of printing most people think of when they hear “3D printing,” is being used to develop advanced medical devices.
Three dimensional bioprinting is the process of creating cell patterns in a confined space where cell function and viability are preserved within the printed construct. In addition to being used for growing organs, this new biotechnology also creates customized skin for prosthetic limbs and skin grafts to fit an individual patient’s needs.
2. Prosthetic Limbs
Prosthetic technology has come a long way since the peg leg, and advances in prosthetic (artificial) limbs are making life easier for amputees. From legs and hands controlled by the brain to skin printed by bio-ink that can simulate the sense of touch, medical researchers are on their way to developing artificial limbs that are as good as the originals.
How well a prosthesis enables the user to function depends on their anatomy and several other factors, such as:
- Fit, stability, and comfort of the prosthetic
- Prosthesis’ socket type and components
- overall health, age, and frame of mind of the user
The invention of prosthetic limbs has given amputees a chance to regain their mobility. Today, carbon fiber is used to make stronger, lighter, and more realistic limbs. As mentioned above, these new, futuristic prosthetics have built in myoelectric sensors that process brain signals to automatically carry out tasks such as gripping and walking, giving the wearer a sense of natural and effortless movement.
3. Medical Thermometer
Of the many tools and instruments that contribute to clinical examination, none has had such widespread application as the clinical thermometer. One of the first instances of an instrument developed to measure temperature was the thermoscope, invented by Galileo in the late sixteenth century; based on the principle that the density of a liquid changes in proportion to its temperature. However, it lacked an accurate scale and could be affected by changes in atmospheric pressure.
The medical thermometer wasn’t in general circulation and practice until Hermann Boerhaave (1668–1738), and his students Gerard van Swieten and Anton de Haen. By observing the fluctuation in a patient's temperature and the physical symptoms of the illness, such as shivering or a fever, Boerhaave and his students concluded that one's temperature could inform the doctor of a patient's health and progression of illness.
In 1868, Carl Reinhold August Wunderlich found that a healthy human's temperature fell within the range of 36.3 to 37.5 °C (97.34 to 99.5 °F). Just a couple years prior to this discover, the medical thermometer had been about foot long and took as long as twenty minutes to take an accurate temperature reading. Sir Thomas Clifford Allbutt’s design of a much more portable device, measuring only six inches long and taking only five minutes to record a person’s temperature, greatly contributed to Wunderlich’s research findings.
4. X-Ray Imaging
The x-ray, a now common medical procedure, was discovered by accident by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen in 1895. He discovered that his cathode ray tube was glowing and could produce images. A scientific bombshell, x-ray imaging utilizes the ability of high frequency electromagnetic waves to pass through human body tissue, but not metal or bone.
A radiograph is the image obtained by placing a part of the patient in front of an x-ray detector and then illuminating it with a short pulse. This procedure is used in the detection of pathology of the skeletal system and some disease processes in soft tissue.
5. LED Phototherapy
Phototherapy is the use of certain types of electromagnetic radiation to treat some skin disorders, such as jaundice, a common, temporary condition in newborns caused by high levels of bilirubin. Phototherapy, or light treatment, is a process that involves exposing the skin to ultraviolet light on a regular basis under medical supervision.
Phototherapy is the most effective treatment when the light used is around 450nm of the light spectrum wavelength (blue color). Super LEDs provide light at this wavelength and have an abrupt reduction of the irradiance from the infra-red and ultra-violet wavelength ranges, reducing undesired effects to the skin.
Other medical uses of light therapy include:
- Skin conditions
- Acne vulgaris
- Retinal conditions
- Mood and Sleep conditions
- Seasonal affective disorder
- Circadian rhythm sleep disorder