Advances in Medical Technology

10 October 2016

Recently, new ground has been broken throughout the field, involving medical techniques, surgical procedures, and electronic devices. Such advancements have streamlined the practice and science of medicine in the 21st century. One form of advancement in Technology that has simplified the record keeping process for Physicians and Nurses alike is the computerized clipboard.

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According to Steve Kelly of Phillips Medical Systems, “The portable, always connected device is designed to require minimal training and provides significant benefits to the clinical users, helping to reduce medication errors, positively identify staff and patients, fill out charts, capture vital signs, write up reports and validate blood transfusions as well as the ability to closely monitor the healing of wounds (Terry). Terry’s words sum up the benefits of such a device quite nicely. Another concept at the forefront of Medical Technology is that of Bionics.

Bionics involves the engineering of “Synthetic”, or artificial limbs to replace those lost due to accidents or amputation. Bionics, as a whole, is not an entirely new concept. The crafting of synthetic limbs has been practiced for some time, but modern Technological advances have cleared a path for much more realistic, functional, and “smarter” limbs. The I-Limb Hand, made by Touch Bionics, is probably the most recent example of how realistic these limbs have become in their appearance.

As stated by Paul Bright of Touch Bionics, “Touch Bionics created the I-LIMB hand in hopes to add more functionality for people who wanted more than just a gripping tool”(Bright). In the photo to the left, courtesy of gizmag. com, one of the hands is an implant, and one is real. Thanks to advances in the science of Bionics, it is difficult to tell which one is artificial. Similarly, research into the field of Implantable Biochips has led to innovations in monitoring vital signs and personal information for soldiers on the battlefield.

The Center for Bioelectronics, Biosensors, & Biochips, Based at Clemson University, is among the leading manufacturers of these Biochips. In an article in Science Daily based on materials provided by Clemson University, it is stated that “The biochip, about the size of a grain of rice, could measure and relay such information as lactate and glucose levels in the event of a major hemorrhage, whether on the battlefield, at home or on the highway”. Furthermore, we’ve seen advances in Medical Technology concerning how surgeries are performed in the 21st Century.

As computers become more and more integrated into medical procedures, we can start to envision surgical procedures that are done robotically. One of the latest innovations in Robotic Surgery is the Da Vinci Robot Surgery System, from Intuitive Surgical. An article in Newsweek written by Jennifer Barrett entitled “Cutting Edge”, states that “The robotic system has already transformed the field of prostate surgery, for which it was approved in May 2001. That year it was used in less than 1 percent of all prostatectomies. This year more than 20 percent will be done with the robot”(Barrett).

Barrett’s remarks indicate that the utilization of such Technology is becoming more prevalent and will most likely be standard practice in the near future. Another innovation of Technology involving portable devices in the field of medicine is the product of research done at the NYU School of Medicine. The BrainScope, as it is called, is a handheld device capable of monitoring activity in the brain. The implications of such a device in both Sports and Warfare are quite amazing. When an Athlete or a Soldier is injured, such a device can be used to measure fluctuations in brain activity to indicate the severity of the damage.

The brain activity is interpreted in only a few minutes, preventing costly and time consuming trips to a hospital for an MRI. These features allow for faster diagnoses of trauma to the brain, and contribute to faster, better informed decisions following an injury. As stated in an article in ScienceDaily, adapted from materials provided by the New York University Medical Center, “BrainScope consists of an adhesive strip, containing six electrodes, which are connected to a mini-computer that resembles an oversized iPod.

After a suspected head injury, a first responder affixes the electrode strip to the patient’s forehead. The device automatically collects a sample of the patient’s EEG and computes a large number of QEEG features, each of which are compared to a databank of normal scores. Within minutes, BrainScope’s color display indicates whether any of the patient’s brain functions deviate from normal”. In conclusion, recent advancements in Technology have brought about vast changes in regards to the practice of Medicine.

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