Medical Technology Advancements That Are Improving Patient Outcomes
May 23, 2018
Healthcare has come a long way since leeches and bloodletting were popular treatment methods. From X-rays and ultrasounds to laparoscopic surgeries and dissolvable sutures, advancements in diagnostic tools, medical device materials, and prosthetics have radically changed the face of health care and the options medical professionals have when treating patients.
The following are just a few relevant advancements made in modern health care as well as some burgeoning technologies that may change it further in the near future.
The Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Machine and Computed Tomography (CT) Scanner
The MRI and CT scanner were invented in relatively rapid succession. Two physicists, Peter Mansfield and Paul Lauterbur, developed the MRI in the late 1970s. The first CT scanner used for diagnostics on patients in a hospital setting was introduced in 1967 by Sir Godfrey Hounsfield. Formally known as the computed tomography scan but more frequently referred to as a “cat scan” or “CT scan,” the system relies on technology similar to X-rays, with roots dating back to 1917. It wasn’t a commercially viable solution in the way medical professionals utilize it today until 50 years later.
Mansfield, Lauterbur, and Hounsfield all earned Nobel Prizes for their respective roles in advancing the diagnostic capabilities of the world’s doctors. It’s estimated that 25,000 MRI scanners are used worldwide for cancer diagnosis and monitoring, neuroimaging, cardiovascular imaging, musculoskeletal diagnostics and so much more. The MRI essentially gives medical professionals a view of the body’s internal organs and systems like never before, especially when paired with a contrast agent that’s injected into patients to provide a clearer view of systems targeted for diagnostics.
CT scans provide similar diagnostic imaging, although it provides a series of cross-section images that can be viewed on a sheet or used to compile three-dimensional images.
It’s hard to quantify the value vaccines have provided to the human race. At several times throughout recorded history, communicable diseases wiped out large swaths of humanity. It’s estimated that the bubonic plague, or “black death,” killed roughly 60 percent of Europe’s population, roughly 50 million people at the time, in the 1300s.
Although there’s still a risk for communicable diseases to spread through populated areas and cause significant death and hardship, many of the planet’s most dangerous and threatening diseases, such as polio, measles, and smallpox, are virtually non-existent in developed countries thanks to vaccines.
Prosthetic technology had not changed dramatically for thousands of years until relatively recently. The materials may have changed, but none were ever especially useful. Prosthetic toes, of all things, dating back to ancient Egypt have been found. A metal artificial leg originating in ancient Rome has also been discovered. During the Middle Ages peg legs and hook hand replacements became popular, but offered little functionality. Artificial feet that could hook into stirrups and arm prosthetics with shield attachments were made to replace feet and arms and add a degree of functionality for knights on the battlefield, but that was the extent of their usefulness. At that time, artificial limbs were largely ornamental.
Wood, leather, and metal were the materials of choice up until the late 20th century. It wasn’t until the 1990s that plastics and polycarbonates began to be frequently used in the fabrication of prosthetics.
The real modern advancements didn’t begin in earnest until specially designed prosthetics like running blades were developed. These allow some amputees to enjoy freedom of movement comparable to people with all their limbs, especially when it comes to leg prosthetics.
The inclusion of sensors, microprocessors, and other motorized technologies is a very new advancement and still in its infancy. Prosthetic hands and arms that can be controlled by the wearer’s thoughts are now a reality, although they’re still in the very early stages of adoption and development. They have arrived though and judging from the rate of advancement in other aspects of medicine and computer technology, Luke Skywalker-style artificial hands may be a realistic possibility before the end of the century.
Do You or Your Family Require Fast, Convenient Medical Care?
If you or one of your children is struggling with the flu, a fracture or a laceration, your local Complete Care facility can provide the cutting-edge, compassionate care you need. Our urgent cares and emergency rooms are equipped with the latest life-saving technologies, feature advanced diagnostic capabilities and are staffed by highly trained, compassionate medical professionals. The next time you require medical care, visit one of our many nearby Complete Care locations in Texas and Colorado.