Medical implants are devices that are manufactured to replace parts of the body that do not work properly. Medical implants can vastly improve the quality of life, and they can even save lives.
Implantable medical devices are a rapidly growing field. When these devices are implanted, they are able to assimilate with the body and help it function properly.
Not all medical implants are created equally. Some are cosmetic, some are life-or-death necessities, and some ease discomfort. All medical implants represent promising technology and a rapidly growing horizon for medicine.
What Are the Most Common Medical Implants?
Some medical implants have been around for decades. These implantable devices have become common practice in treating otherwise life-threatening conditions.
These staple medical implants treat many conditions that previously had no solution. Without them, many medical problems would be life-threatening or fatal.
Artificial Eye Lenses (Cataract Surgery)
Artificial eye lenses are used to treat cataracts. Cataracts cause the lens of your eye to become cloudy and affect your vision. By implanting a clear, artificial lens into your eye, cataract surgery restores your vision to what it once was. Cataract surgery is easily accessible, especially if you have a vision care benefit in your health insurance plan.
Ear tubes are usually used to treat children with chronic ear infections or fluid buildup in their ears. These body implants are very small and made of plastic.
Ear tubes are implanted into the eardrum, and allow air to circulate through the inner ear. This prevents fluid and pressure from building up and causing pain or hearing impairment.
Ear tubes may also be used in adult patients, but chronic fluid buildup is much more common in young, developing ears.
A coronary stent is an implant shaped like a tube that keeps the arteries open so blood can flow to the heart. Coronary stents are used to treat coronary heart disease.
The insertion of a coronary stent is called percutaneous coronary intervention. It is a surgical procedure.
When you get knee replacement surgery, your orthopedic surgeon will replace some parts of your knee with artificial implants. These implants will keep your knee bending and twisting properly.
These implants are made of metal. In a knee replacement, the lower part of your femur, your tibia, and your patella can be partially replaced with implants.
Bone Fracture Screws
Bone fractures must be surgically repaired if a broken bone will not otherwise heal properly. Once the bone is set into place by a surgeon, it will be fixed together with metal screws.
Bone fracture screws stay in place permanently. They help prevent future fractures while helping your broken bone heal correctly.
There are many other commonly used medical implants. The pacemaker, which was the first electronic medical implant, is used to regulate irregular heartbeats.
There are two kinds of birth control implants on the market: one is an intrauterine device and the other is a contraceptive implant that goes in the upper arm.
Hip replacements are common in the elderly and use similar types of implants as artificial knees do. As you age, it is common to experience wear and tear on your joints that necessitate joint replacement eventually.
Uncommon Medical Implants
Some modern body implants are less common because they were recently developed. However, these implants can still provide revolutionary medical treatment.
Dissolvable Brain Implants
Since not all implants need to stay in the body permanently, surgeons have created dissolvable body implants. This eliminates the need for a surgeon to go back in and take out an implant, which is invasive.
Dissolvable brain implants can be used to diagnose a problem, treat a short-term issue, or repair a wound.
Since brain surgery is inherently risky and scary to most patients, dissolvable brain implants are the natural answer. They eliminate a lot of risks and do not harm brain tissue in any way.
Vivistim System for Stroke Survivors
The Vivistim System was designed to help stroke survivors regain use of their limbs. The system works by inserting a device into the patient's neck.
That device is linked to a computer and sends electrical signals to the patient's nerves to help them move their limbs.
Vocal Cord Gel that Restores the Ability to Speak
Vocal cord gel can be injected into the vocal folds to improve vocal cord functionality. This gel dissolves after a few months and provides lasting relief from vocal cord damage.
Vocal cord gel works on vocal cords that are worn down or not closing properly.
This gel could be especially helpful in the treatment of people who have vocal cord damage from smoking or other substance use. It can also be used to help people whose vocal cords were damaged in an accident.
Flexible Spinal Implant
Flexible spine implants are used to treat back pain. Artificial discs can be implanted into the spine and will mimic the function of your real discs.
Flexible spinal implants are groundbreaking because of the fact that they are flexible. Most other spinal implants are solid metal plates, which cannot adapt as well to the natural motion of your back.
Flexible spinal implants can relieve back pain when other options have not yet worked. They are the next step beyond acupuncture, nerve block therapies, and spinal manipulation techniques.
Tumour Tracking Implant
Tumour tracking implants are the new frontier of non-invasive medical examinations. These implants are ingested by the patient and linked to tracking devices.
Doctors can use tumour tracking implants to see any slight movement that a tumour makes inside your body. This previously was not possible without invasive and expensive procedures.
Previously, the only way to see, clearly and on a camera, what was going on inside someone's body was through laparoscopic surgery. Laparoscopic surgery requires recovery time and can be risky.
Tumour tracking implants, on the other hand, are not invasive in any way. Plus, they carry none of the risks from anesthesia that surgery does.
Medical Implants of the Future
There are always exciting new advancements in the future of body implants. Some of these cutting-edge technologies are still in development. However, they have the potential to provide life-changing relief to a lot of patients.
Spearheaded by Elon Musk, Neuralink is a venture into connecting computers and the human brain. While Musk seems to have everyday convenience in mind for this technology, it has a lot of medical promise as well.
Neuralink would give its users enhanced brainpower using very small probes that are robotically inserted into the brain. This technology could end up revolutionizing the care of people with traumatic brain injuries or degenerative diseases of the brain.
ABLE's Exoskeleton for the Disabled
ABLE, a medical technology start-up in Barcelona, has created an "exoskeleton" that allows disabled people to experience the joys and independence of walking.
The exoskeleton is lightweight and quick and easy to fit. This technology could easily revolutionize care for those with degenerative illnesses and other problems that make walking difficult.
Parasym's Ear Clip for Chronic Pain
Parasym has created an ear clip that relieves the pain of atrial fibrillation. This device is a revolutionary treatment in not only chronic pain, but seizures as well.
Nerve stimulation is currently being investigated as a course of treatment for people with epilepsy who do not respond to anti-convulsant medications. The results are promising.
X-Cor's CO2 Removal Device for Respiratory Failure
Some relatively common illnesses, like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Cystic Fibrosis, cause carbon dioxide to build up in the bloodstream. CO2 buildup can cause respiratory failure and, in some cases, be fatal.
X-Cor's CO2 removal device will be the first commercially available device that allows CO2 to be extracted from the bloodstream of people in respiratory failure.
This device is sure to revolutionize the treatment of people who experience breathing problems.
The Future of Medicine
Medical implants are a big part of the natural progression of medicine as technology advances. Since the pacemaker was invented in the 1960s, the potential for treatment with electronic devices has only grown.
Many diseases that were once thought to have no cure may now be completely manageable. The medical implant market is growing constantly, and in the next few decades may completely transform healthcare as we know it.
For more health or health insurance-related inquiries, check out some more Insurdinary blog posts. If you suffer from a chronic health condition, ask your doctor if there is a medical implant that could help you.