Innovative medical devices, a boon

Innovative medical devices, a boon

Imagine going through a knee replacement surgery about a decade ago. It used to be an extremely cumbersome process, tying down the patient under strict medical supervision for at least a month.

Switching gears, today, in most cases, patients take first weight bearing steps within 30 hours of surgery or even less. Post-operative pain is almost negligible and most patients come for their first consultation walking to their doctor’s chamber rather than on wheelchair.

Innovation in medical technology space has made the unthinkable possible today by enhancing the quality of delivery, reducing the turnaround time and thus, the overall cost. Also, India has catapulted to one am­ong the top five medical tourist spots in the world, having hosted millions of medical tourists from around the world using the state of art medical technology, world class infrastructure and skilled medical staff.

If industry estimates are anything to go by, during February 2017, a cumulative of 9.56 lakh foreign tourists arrived with a growth of 45.2% that month compared to February 20161.

Talking about the orthopae­dic sector, use of safe and efficacious advanced technology is crucial today, especially when millions worldwide are suffering the effects of progressive arthritic pains. It is a fact that orthopae­dic surgeons work with more medical devices than most heal­thcare professionals. Which is why continued innovation in this field is even more imperative.

There are now new and better ways to treat arthritis and chronic tendon injuries and perform total ankle replacements. The patient specific instrumentation (PSI) is a modern technology in total knee arthroplasty (TKA) which aims at facilitating the implant. The benefits of this technology are that post-operative alignment is more reproducible, surgical time is decreased, and the entire procedure is more efficient and economical.

The Triathlon Knee is an evolutionary design developed to closely reproduce the natural knee motion, designed to provi­de mobility with stability. Thanks to bioengineering, and specifically stem cell research, resear­chers are now designing and developing ways to use stem cells to repair damaged tendons and joints and this is having a huge impact on how chronic foot and ankle injuries as well as foot and ankle arthritis are treated.

In fact, most orthopaedic imp­lants, plates and screws are progressively becoming stronger and more advanced – influencing the treatment for the better, delivering improved patient care. Another recent breakthro­ugh innovation in orthopaedic surgery has been the development of a single-use arthroscope, which provides a pristine new scope for every procedure.

Arthroscopes get damaged and degraded in optical quality with use, handling, and reprocessing, as do other surgical instruments. This is, thus, a major advancement in terms of surgical quality and patient safety.

The latest in technology is 3D printed body parts, a game changer which promises to alter the medical landscape in India. By using this technology, the bone implant can be custom-made for the patient.

Medical technology has also seen evolution to ensure a safe and hygienic environment. Latest advancements see medical equipment being developed to clean the operating room after a procedure, which reduces human interface in an infection prone area and improves efficiency and lives of the OT staff.

Elusive cure
Having said that, we should realise that there are still many challenges to innovation, especi­ally in orthopaedics and neurology, like finding the elusive cure for chronic low back pain, which hopefully will come by with improved understanding of the likely multi-factorial pain generators that cause low back pain.

It is also very important for practitioners to individualise treatment strategies for patients and look at the outcomes more objectively by using sophisticated evaluation techniques. 

For good work to remain, there is an impending need to continuously innovate, and innovation is the essence of what the industry does. At the same time, innovation is beyond just improving products; it is improving the way that healthcare is delivered, making healthcare systems more efficient and more sustainable.

Industry affiliations with surgeons and, on a larger scale, with policy makers, should continue to be robust. All stakeholders should actively work towards improving and presenting significant opportunities to advance research and development in the field of orthopaedic surgery and rehabilitation.

Continuous innovation within the medical technology sector helps drive the competitiveness for a knowledge-based economy, bringing increased prosperity to the nation. That’s the key.

(The writer is Additional Director, Orthopaedics Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru)

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