Intelligent Implants: Next Revolution in Personalized Medicine

While researching MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) technology in cardiology, I came across several companies developing intelligent orthopedic implants.  This is an extraordinary market considering there are approximately 500,000 total knee replacements and almost 300,000 total hip replacements performed each year.

A lot comes to mind when you talk about MEMS technology and orthopedic implants.  No, they aren’t developing a robotic joint for mainstream use, at least not yet.  But, intelligent implants basically involve incorporating pressure, temperature, vibration, alignment, and strain sensors in with the implant.

My first question was: what does this offers the patient and the provider?  The promise of the technology is to assist physicians with a more accurate placement of the implant during the procedure.  It also allows for the real-time monitoring for infection and the performance of the implant, such as loosening from the bone, which is exciting since complications from joint replacement surgery range from 4% to 15%.

Other than the wear of the device, the primary reason for failure is a combination of surgical factors and the implant loosening from the bone (osteolysis).  One study discussed the importance of properly placing the device and ligament balance in extending the life of the implant.  During the study, “The effect of minor and major medial collateral ligament releases was biomechanically quantified. On average, the medial contact force was reduced by 20% and 46%, respectively.”

If you consider how MEMS technology has impacted cardiology implants, the sky’s the limit with intelligent orthopedic systems.

James Laskaris, EE, BME
James Laskaris, EE, BME, Clinical Analyst — Mr. James Laskaris is a senior emerging technology analyst at MD Buyline and has been with the company since 1994. With over 30 years of experience in the healthcare field, Mr. Laskaris is the primary analyst of high-end OR technology. He also covers issues related to the legislative and reimbursement effect on healthcare and authors a bimonthly “Issues that Matter” publication. Mr. Laskaris received his biomedical engineering degree from Southern Illinois University. His work has been published in hfm Magazine, Radiology Manager and Healthcare Purchasing News.