Medical advances are not a new phenomenon. Since ancient times, physicians, researchers, and inventors have devised and discovered new ways to diagnose and treat disease. However, the past ten years have seen the development of technologies that would have amazed innovators from earlier times.
Kidney-removing surgery once resulted in a 10-inch scar. Happily, that’s no longer the case. In 2007, Cleveland Clinic surgeons operated through an incision in the navel. The same year, a surgeon at the prestigious hospital employed a ground-breaking technique known as natural orifice translumenal endoscopic surgery (NOTES) to remove a woman’s kidney through her vagina. Procedures performed through the mouth and other body openings can do away with the intense pain and lengthy recovery time of traditional surgery.
A New Look at the Brain
Thanks to an innovation in magnetic resonance imaging, it’s now possible to see the brain in action. The functional MRI works by recording alterations in the organ’s blood flow and oxygen levels. A patient in the scanner is given a math problem or another easy task. As he or she responds, the fMRI shows which areas are activated by measuring oxygen, blood flow, and the rate at which cells metabolize sugar. This next-generation MRI is an effective tool for helping people learn more about the brain’s many functions and conditions like depression, autism, and even psoriasis.
The Bionic Era
When a flesh-eating bacteria invaded her body, doctors saved a woman’s life by amputating her hands, leg, and foot. In a move reminiscent of The Six-Million-Dollar Man and Star Wars, the patient received of a pair of bionic hands. An iPad app allows her to move the new appendages. She’s not alone: computer chips, Bluetooth devices, and 3-D computer models make innovative prosthetic devices look, feel, and move more naturally.
When the Janssens, a father-son team, created a microscope back in 1590, they revolutionized the diagnosis and treatment of disease. The latest innovation of their invention is at the forefront of another revolution. Rather than using mirrors or lenses, digital camera microscopesproject the specimen’s image on a computer screen. A USB port enables users to connect the device to their computers. Available software can produce 3D images and even images with a shadow contrast.
Home Health Care the Modern Way
Garments fitted with blood pressure and pulse sensors are on the horizon. There’s a digestible chip that can tell if the patient took the pill, check digestive system vitals, and send the information to a cell phone. Communications service providers in Korea, New Zealand, the U.S., and other countries are working with health care professionals. These partnerships enable doctors to monitor blood sugar, vital signs, and weight and provide patients with medicine bottles that remind them to take their medications.
The medical world has come a long way in the last ten years. The thought of what the next decade will bring is an exciting one, indeed.