Range of new pacemakers and other devices curb deaths

28 September 2016

Medical devices and surgical instruments are improving survival rates through their use of new technology.

The ageing population and the improvement in heart attack survival rates has resulted in a record number of heart failure hospital visits over the past decade that have been non-fatal bus still required intervention. Medical devices for heart surgery are benefitting from technology such as virtual reality, 3D printing and heart pacemakers measuring just 2.5cm long.

The devices, such as Medtronic’s Micra Transcatheter Pacing System, currently cost around £7,500, but many believe that leadless pacemakers will be standard in the near future, particularly as companies like St Jude Medical and Boston Scientific have also developed versions of implantable technology.

Minimally invasive surgery using laparoscopic or advanced surgical tooling has also been instrumental in improving mortality rates. Advances range across the heart disease spectrum from an online ‘Heart Age Tool’ offered by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) to help people reduce their risks, to cyborg heart patches that can react to and treat abnormalities or heart attacks.

There is a new array of other solutions too; in early 2016, researchers at Tel Aviv University unveiled a remote-controlled bionic heart, or the Cyborg Cardiac Patch, which is engineered with nano electrodes and polymers so that it can administer electrical stimulation or release drugs if it senses problems with heart rhythm or volume.

The first version of the device will be monitored by physicians, who can make tweaks from data transmitted by the patch, but future models are to be designed with the intention of using artificial intelligence to deliver therapies without the need for human intervention.

As well as this, a team at Cambridge University is developing a flexible polymer bonding, which could lead to replacement valves that mimic human performance. The valve, which is being laboratory tested in a BHF-funded project, could provide better function and last longer than current mechanical and animal versions.

Implantable defibrillators, one of many devices controlling heart rhythms, have been reduced from the size of a house brick 20 years ago to compact and powerful units that can be fine-tuned to individual patients.



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