Many life-saving devices, especially those mechanically performing the necessary functions of the heart, lungs, kidneys, etc., have existed in one form or another for years, and are now often taken for granted as being regular components of medical care. However, many may not be aware that every day, scientists are developing numerous new technologies, and perfecting the technologies that already exist, in order to substantially prolong lives. These technologies hope to address a variety of different ailments and complications that could have easily killed a person in a less fortuitous time. Below are some of the newest and best technologies to enter the medical field in the past few years.
There are less than 3,000 donor organs available worldwide per year, but there are many, many more in dire need of a donor heart. Many of these people will die having never found a donor. Due to this shortage, scientists have attempted to develop other ways to keep those suffering from heart failure alive. Of course, a weak heart needs assistance in pumping blood through the body.
One of the most promising innovations in that regard is the Heartmate II, which utilizes rotary action in order to produce a constant flow of blood, as opposed to the pumping action of previous left ventricular assist devices. In fact, the Heartmate II is often used as a permanent therapy for patients with severe heart failure who are not candidates for organ replacement.
Placed just below the heart, the lightweight Heartmate II takes blood from the left ventricle and pumps it into the aorta. An electrical cable powering the blood pump passes through the patient’s skin to an external controller and batteries, which are worn at the patient’s waist. The external controller is then used by the physician in order to designate its functions, including pump speed.
Pipeline Embolization Device
The Pipeline Embolization Device can be implanted during a new, minimally-invasive procedure, and can safely and effectively treat brain aneurysms. By definition, a brain aneurysm is a weak spot in the wall of a blood vessel within the brain, characterized by an abnormal widening of the vessel. And when a brain aneurysm ruptures, death results in about 40 percent of all cases. And of those who survive, about two-thirds suffer some permanent neurological deficit.
Consisting of a flexible braided mesh tube, the Pipeline Embolization Device is noninvasively delivered by catheter to a
damaged vessel in the brain, effectively blocking off large aneurysms. When the damaged vessel is blocked off, blood flow is then redirected away from the aneurysm. The remaining blood in this area then clots, thereby preventing rupture, and perhaps even causing the aneurysm to shrink over time.
Catheter-Based Renal Denervation
One in three adult Americans has hypertension. Hypertension then puts them at significant risk for strokes, heart attacks, and kidney failure. However, the new renal denervation procedure targets the renal sympathetic system, which consists of the small nerves that carry signals between the brain and kidneys. The renal sympathetic system fuels the release of certain hormones that can increase blood pressure.
In this procedure, a small catheter-based probe is inserted into the femoral artery in the upper thigh and threa
ded up into the renal artery near each kidney. Once placed in the proper position, these probes deliver low-dose, radiofrequency energy to the surrounding renal nerves through the vessel wall, thereby impairing them. Disruption of these nerves has resulted in improved blood pressure levels, as well as showing promise in treating chronic kidney disease and heart failure.
“Telehealth” Wireless Cardiac Device
More than 500,000 new cases of heart failure are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. But instead of simply waiting for the dangerous symptoms to appear unexpectedly, patients can elect to be continually monitored with wireless telehealth cardiac devices in the comfort of their very own homes. In the latest trials of these wireless devices, readmissions were reduced by as much as 38 percent.
Telehealth wireless cardiac devices consist of miniature implantable monitors that measure pulmonary artery pressure and other physiological data, which may help to indicate which patients are at greater risk of hospitalization, and may otherwise help physicians manage patient care. Additionally, these devices regularly and wirelessly transmit data such as weight, heart rate, and blood pressure to the physician.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
The form of treatment wherein a patient breathes 100 percent oxygen at absolute pressures (two to three times greater than normal atmospheric pressure) is called Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. This treatment causes a remarkable increase in arterial plasma oxygen concentration, increasing the diffusion distance from functioning capillaries. This very scientific description of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy may sound overwhelming, but it is important to note that its use can significantly enhance the healing process, delaying or even eliminating the need for limb amputations, and also dramatically improving the resolution rates of non-healing and chronic wounds.
It is believed that Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy can be used to treat carbon monoxide poisoning, radiation tissue injuries, decompression sickness, exceptional blood loss anemia, diabetic ulcers, flesh-eating soft tissue infections, burns, intracranial brain abscesses, and more. Moreover, researchers are presently attempting to determine whether this therapy can also be utilized in cases of cardiovascular accidents, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and Cerebral Palsy.
Warm Organ Perfusion Device
The warm organ perfusion device is a portable miniature heart machine that pumps warm blood, oxygen, and nutrients through a donor heart, preserving the heart for its upcoming transplantation, and otherwise preventing decay. This pumping action causes the heart to begin naturally beating, and continue beating until transplanted.
In a field that relies primarily on speed of delivery, this new machine keeps the organ warm, allowing it to stay “good” for nearly 12 hours. And considering that on any given day there are about 4,000 people awaiting a heart transplant in the United States alone, the warm organ perfusion device is most certainly helping to prolong lives.
Do You Want to Help Save Lives?
Did you know that modern medical professionals utilize teams of people to better assist them in saving lives? In fact, medical assistants play a vital role in the success of such teams. Whether working at a private practice or a large hospital, medical assistants are at the forefront of patient care. The duties that you perform in a medical assisting role help people get the healthcare they need, and will certainly save more than a few lives. There are many entry-level healthcare positions out there for medical assistants, but you should also consider enrolling in one of the many medical assistant programs.
Medical assisting will include preparing patients, assisting physicians, taking medical histories, recording vital signs, explaining treatment procedures to patients, performing laboratory tests, listening to patient questions, documenting patient concerns, giving vaccinations, drawing blood, and relating doctor instructions to patients. Pursuant to their medical assistant training, they may also be entrusted with instructing patients regarding medications and special diets, authorizing drug refills, taking electrocardiograms, removing sutures, and changing dressings.
In addition, medical assistant training will teach you how to treat people in cases of emergency. And you cannot understate the importance of the aforementioned duties! Medical assistant training also emphasizes the value of accuracy, as people’s lives are often dependent upon their proper and careful recording of medical data. After all, the doctor needs to know the correct information in order to make an informed medical diagnosis and prescribe the proper treatment. A medical assistant’s accuracy can, and does, save lives.
Sara Walters is a freelance writer who has written extensively on college medical assistant programs as well as other medical and health related college programs.
Image Credit: National Heart Lung and Blood Institute