Medical technology: Erstaunliche Möglichkeiten der Medizinaltechnik (auf Englisch)

Our health is something we take for granted, until we are diagnosed with an unexpected illness, or we are the unfortunate victim of a life-changing accident. It is then that we will start to consider how medical advancement can and will increase life expectancy, open doors to possibilities once considered purely science fiction and ultimately save our lives. Here are some of the areas where science and technology are leaving their mark.

Bilder einer Magnetresonanztomographie (MRI)

Moderne bildgebende Verfahren erleichtern Diagnose und Behandlung – hier die Bilder einer Magnetresonanztomographie (MRI). Bild: CanStockPhoto

Implants

Implants are not a new phenomenon. In fact, there is an increasing population of bionic Americans among the over 40s who rely on defibrillator-like devices to keep their hearts ticking, aid bladder control, or help cope with chronic pain. However, consistent technological breakthroughs in surgical implantation are making it more and more possible for people who have lost their sight, hearing, or even a limb.

One radical surgeon in Philadelphia implanted a tiny telescope into the eye of a pensioner who had lost almost all his vision through macular degenerative disease. The individual had been living in a virtual prison with no apparent cure, but after the operation was once again able to live an almost normal life.

Soon, through implants, patients will be administered appropriate levels of drugs based on readings within their body. Potential infection in artificial limbs will be identified because implants will have picked up heat change; patient data will be stored so any doctor, anywhere, can implement a treatment plan. According to scientists in the field of neuroprosthetics, one day implants will even allow us to grow our own limbs! This is light years ahead of us, but ultimately, by placing an implant onto the central nervous system our bodies could create new pathways from the brain to parts of the body which have lost mobility. In other words, we will be able to create Luke Skywalker’s hand or Robocop’s body.

Robotic surgeons

Medical robots are not something new either. They have been around since the 1980s. However advances in technology mean that they are being used more and more frequently to assist in intricate surgeries and reduce the risk of human error. The robot surgeon functions similarly to the surgeon’s arm and is controlled by the surgeon. In surgeries where controlled repeated actions are required the robot surgeon will perform with greater precision than the human hand.

Diagnosis

Early diagnosis and an individual treatment plan are key to saving lives. This is not always possible for people in developing countries who do not have access to cutting-edge medical equipment. However, computer engineers at Washington University in St. Louis have combined the technologies of two applications to create one small device which could save thousands. They have merged a USB-based ultrasound probe and a smart phone to create a hand-sized ultrasound machine. This will potentially allow doctors working in remote locations to use medical imaging to detect problems in a patient’s kidneys, liver, arteries, eyes, or bladder, thus allowing immediate diagnosis. This would be a significant medical breakthrough in developing countries and change the use of medicine and computers on a global scale.

Prevention is better than cure

At some point in the future, near of far, our medical record will include a complete imprint of our DNA and genetic make-up. It will be absolutely clear what diseases we are susceptible to and how we will react to medicine and treatment. Medical treatment will become totally individualized and it will be about lifestyle change to avoid those illnesses that are a risk for us. Any medicine we do take will be to delay disease rather than treat it.

The way technology is changing the face of modern medicine might seem like science fiction in the developed world, but there are still too many places that technology cannot reach. When all is said and done we are still only human and unfortunately many of the technologies outlined here are not readily available on a global scale.

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Defibrillators only help people with heart disease.

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Robot surgeons are sometimes more precise than human surgeons.

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