Here are some new, and advanced, medical technologies to watch in the year ahead.
- Cutting Back on Melanoma Biopsies
With the most lethal form of skin cancer, melanoma, a huge number of dangerous looking moles are in fact benign, but has always been impossible to know for certain without an invasive surgical biopsy by a skin doctor. The MelaFind optical scanner is not suitable for definitive diagnosis but rather to offer extra information a physician can use in deciding whether or not to purchase a biopsy. The target is to reduce the amount of patients left with unnecessary biopsy scars, with the additional advantage of eliminating the expense of unnecessary processes, similar to getting mole removal through advanced surgery. The MelaFind technology (MELA Sciences, Irvington, NY) uses missile navigation technologies initially paid for the Department of Defense to optically scan the surface of a suspicious lesion in 10 electromagnetic wavelengths. The collected signals are processed with heavy duty algorithms and matched against a registry of 10,000 digital pictures of melanoma and skin disorders.
- Electronic Aspirin
For men and women (mainly older adults) who suffer from migraines, cluster headaches, and other causes of chronic, excruciating head or facial pain, the “take two aspirins and call me in the morning” procedure is futile. Doctors have long associated the most acute, chronic types of aggravation with the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG), a facial nerve package, but have not yet found a treatment that works on the SPG long-term. A technology under trial and evaluation is a patient-powered tool for blocking SPG signs at the first sign of a headache for older adults in aged care. The system requires the permanent implant of a little nerve-stimulating device in the top gum on the side of the mind normally influenced by headache. If a patient feels the beginning of a headache, he or she puts a handheld remote control on the cheek nearest the augmentation and can then interpret the pain levels of the adult.
- Needle-Free Diabetes Care
Diabetes self-care is a pain–literally. It brings the continuous need to draw blood for glucose testing, the need for daily insulin shots and the increased risk of disease from all that poking. Continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps are today’s best options for automating the majority of the complicated daily procedure of blood glucose management — but they do not completely eliminate the need for skin pricks and shots. But there is fresh skin in this game. Healthcare equipment like the Echo Therapeutics (Philadelphia, PA) is developing technologies that would replace the poke with a patch. The business is working on a transdermal biosensor that reads blood through the skin without drawing blood. The technology involves a handheld electric-toothbrush-like device that removes just enough top-layer skin cells to set the patient’s blood chemistry in signal range of a patch-borne biosensor. The detector collects one reading per minute and sends the information wirelessly to a remote monitor, triggering audible alarms when amounts go from the patient’s optimal variety and monitoring glucose levels over time.
- Robotic Check-Ups
A pillar of health reform is gaining access to the best healthcare for more people. Technology is a cost-effective and increasingly powerful method to connect clinics in the vast and medically undeserved rural areas of around the world, with large city medical centers and their pros. Now medical robots go one step further; they can now patrol hospital halls on more regular rounds, checking on patients in various rooms and managing their unique graphs and vital signs without direct human intervention. And this technology is just the beginning, imagine what this advancement in technology means for the future. The RP-VITA Remote Presence Robot produced jointly by iRobot Corp, and In Touch Health is the first such autonomous navigation remote-presence robot to receive FDA clearance for hospital use. The unit is a portable cart with a two-way movie monitor and medical monitoring equipment, programmed to maneuver through the busy halls of a hospital.
- A Valve Job with Heart
The Sapien transcatheter aortic valve is a life-threatening alternative to open-heart operation for patients who need new a new valve but can not endure the rigors of the surgery. The Sapien has been available in Europe for some time but is just now finding its first use in U.S. heart centers, in which it is restricted only to the frailest patients thus far. The Sapien valve is directed through the femoral artery by catheter from a tiny incision near the increased or rib cage. The valve material is constructed from bovine tissue attached to a stainless-steel, which is enlarged by inflating a tiny balloon when properly placed in the valve area. A simpler procedure that promises dramatically shorter hospitalizations is sure to have a positive impact on the expense of care.