Orthopaedic surgery is another branch of surgery that has very high visibility. One of its pioneers is Sir John Charnley, a British orthopaedic surgeon. He is recognized as the founder of modern hip replacement, creating the procedure known as total hip replacement, in which both the ball and the socket of the hip are replaced.
Sir Charnley exemplifies a very important aspect of many pioneers of surgery; efforts in charting a new road forward are as much about attempting new procedures, as they are about inventing the tools and devices that are required to be able to achieve their desired outcome. There are many remarkable inventions across the field, some of which are highlighted below.
The first pacemaker was implanted by Swedish cardiologist and engineer Dr. Rune Elmqvist together with his Professor Ake Senning in 1958. Their patient, Arne Larsson, suffered from cardiac arrhythmia which had led to a drastically reduced heart beat causing frequent fainting that meant he had to be revived. For the first implant, the inventors coated two electrodes and the necessary electronics in an epoxy cup to protect the components from the ‘adverse environment’ in the body. The first pacemakers only lasted three hours, but they were quickly replaced and the prototypes that followed would last longer and longer. Mr Larsson lived another 44 years and used a total of 26 pacemakers.
Image credit: The first fully implantable pacemaker, image source: Wikipedia
Laparoscopy, also known as ‘key-hole surgery’ or minimally-invasive surgery (MIS) has been around for over 100 years, with the first laparoscopic procedure in humans being reported by Dr Hans Christian Jacobaeus of Sweden in 1910. The benefit to the patient of less invasive surgery is a reduced risk of infection and faster recovery times; however, laparoscopic surgery requires the mastering of an advanced level of skill by the surgeon. With experience and improved technology such as better mechanisms, better materials and also better cameras to be able to see through the keyhole, MIS has gained ground and really established itself as an integral part of the modern surgical landscape.
Image credit: Modern laparoscopic device for liver surgery, image source: Covidien
Robotic surgery has come onto the scene gradually over the past 20 years, pushed by technical possibilities and also driven by the desire to address some of the shortcomings of both open and laparoscopic surgery. The pioneer of robotic surgery has arguably been the company Intuitive Surgical
. Having acquired a number of surgical robotic technologies invented at NASA and MIT, amongst others, the company went ahead to successfully bring robotic surgery to the masses with its Da Vinci surgical system. While the clinical benefits of robotic surgery remain the subject of a heated debate, no one can argue the fact that the use of robots has expanded what is possible clinically and paved the way for future innovations.
Image credit: Da Vinci surgical robot from Intuitive Surgical
Today, the surgical device industry is facing a multitude of pressures; cost pressures as healthcare systems globally are being strained, regulatory pressures as agencies demand ever more assurance for the safety and efficacy of devices, and also a lack of capital to invest in start-ups who nowadays are frequently the source of breakthrough ideas.
Over the next few posts in this series, I will be looking at some of the technical trends that are enabling breakthrough innovation in this space. I will also explore how Human-Centred Design (HCD) techniques can be used to reduce commercial risk and drive focused development of new devices and systems.
Stay tuned, and if you have any comments on this post please don’t hesitate to get in touch!