The world of medical devices has entered the realm of what was once science fiction, from pills taking pictures to robots helping doctors perform surgery. "It’s an exciting time for medical technology," says Venkat Rajan, medical industry analyst at research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. "Devices are getting much smarter."
The biggest advances are coming in the areas of robotics, heart valves, stroke prevention, and electrical stimulation to treat everything from depression to migraines to Parkinson’s. Some of the latest medical devices are large enough to fill a room. Others are small enough to travel through the femoral artery. To see the coolest new medical devices on the market—or soon to launch—read on.
Deka Arm System
Created by: Deka
A measure of capability in a prosthetic arm is "degrees of freedom," an engineering term that defines the ways a body or system can move, such as rolling, pitching, or swaying. With 10 powered degrees of freedom, this arm—created by Deka and funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the U.S. Army Research Office—has far more available capability than anything on the market. Moreover, the light-weight arm hits the scale at the same level as the average female arm—roughly eight pounds. Still undergoing development, the prosthetic does not yet have a release date or price. The arm is the brainchild of inventor Dean Kamen, creator of the Segway and founder of Deka.
Sapien Transcatheter heart valve
Created by: Edwards Lifesciences
When operating isn’t an option, the transcatheter heart valve from Edwards Lifesciences (EW) could save lives. Inserted through a groin incision, the collapsible steel frame is built to go up the femoral artery to the aortic valve inside the heart that has been clogged. A doctor can then use a small balloon in the device to open the valve. Not including the cost of surgery, the valve is projected to cost from $30,000 to $35,000 and is expected to be released in October 2011 if it obtains a green light from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
(Corrects date of expected FDA approval)
Created by: Thoratec
For patients in advanced stages of heart failure, when the heart is too weak to pump blood, the HeartMate II from Thoratec (THOR) is an implant that helps fulfill that function. The device costs $80,000 and includes a wearable system with controls and two batteries. While the first version of the HeartMate, approved in 1994, was more cumbersome and contained a different power system, the current model was approved in 2010 for those ineligible for a heart transplant.
Makoplasty Total Hip Arthroplasty
Created by: Mako
On Sept. 19, Mako (MAKO) released a surgical robot that helps surgeons perform hip replacements with greater accuracy. The device gives doctors a 3D reconstruction of the hip before surgery. The surgical robot's arm then helps the doctor place the hip correctly. Mako has sold 86 units of a similar robotic arm for knee replacements. An update for the knee device that adds the hip treatment costs $290,000, while a single machine for both hips and knees runs $1.3 million.
E39 Biometric Shirt
Created by: Zephyr Technology and Under Armour
The E39 biometric shirt is made with electronics designed by Zephyr Technology for use by the military and first responders. The company teamed up with Under Armour (UA) to create a shirt for NFL players at the end of last season. Instead of running athletes on a treadmill with straps and wires, the shirt measures heart rate, breathing rate, and motion such as speed and vertical jump. The commercial version of the shirt will be machine washable, with pop-off electronics, and is likely to be released next year. An Under Armour spokesperson said pricing for the shirt has not been set. Zephyr Technology produces a number of strap-on electronics that measure biometrics and run from $99, for a small number of measurements, to $500 for a high-end device.
Da Vinci Surgical Robot
Created by: Intuitive Surgical
The da Vinci system from Intuitive Surgical (ISRG) is a minimally invasive surgical tool to be operated by a surgeon directing three robotic arms. A camera on a fourth arm provides 3D visualization at up to 10 times magnification of the area being worked on. More than 1,000 units are installed in operating rooms around the world. The system costs from $1 million to $2.3 million, while instruments and accessories can run from $1,300 to $2,200 per procedure, according to the company.
Created by: Given Imaging
Until Given Imaging (GIVN:IT) released the PillCam, doctors could not see what was happening to those with bowel disorders or problems in the digestive tract. Now a patient can swallow a $500 pill-sized camera that transmits photos wirelessly to a data recorder; the "pill" is flushed after documenting its trip through the gastrointestinal tract. Three models offer slightly different designs, based on anatomy, for the esophagus, colon, and small bowel. The colon pill has yet to be approved by the FDA, which cleared the first generation of small-bowel and esophagus capsules in 2001 and 2004, respectively. More than 1.5 million PillCams have been sold.
7+ Continuous Glucose Monitor
Created by: Dexcom
Diabetics have to monitor their glucose levels manually. This device from Dexcom (DXCM) makes that process much simpler, with a water-resistant sensor that is worn on the abdomen for a full week. It offers continuous monitoring via a beeper-like device that issues an alarm when the glucose level runs low. The device's third-generation model retails for about $1,000.
Created by: Accuray
Once doctors have found a tumor by using an imaging machine such as an MRI, the CyberKnife from Accuray (ARAY) can send focused amounts of radiation to the afflicted area, using a linear accelerator on a robotic arm. In more than a decade since the FDA approved it, the CyberKnife has been used to treat more than 100,000 patients, according to Accuray. The average session takes three visits and costs about $13,900, including fees paid to the hospital and physician.
Absorb Bioresorbable Vascular Scaffold
Created by: Abbott
Similar to a stent that would be used to treat an artery clogged with plaque, Abbott is developing what is called a vascular scaffold, which slowly releases a drug to be absorbed by the body over two years, over which time the vessel should heal. The scaffold's material is corn-and soy-based. Available in Europe, the device has yet to be submitted to the FDA for approval. No pricing has been determined.