Doctors are only as good as their equipment allows. Today, new research into medical equipment is not only improving the effectiveness of medical procedures every day, but also changing the way we think about health and medicine. Here are 5 of the most important and promising advancements in medical equipment today.
1. Smartphone Ultrasound Imaging
With the help of a $ 100,000 grant from Microsoft, computer scientists at Washington University have combined USB-based ultrasound probe technology with smart phone technology. The result is a portable medical imaging device small enough to fit in your palm. One of the goals of the research team is to train people in developing countries to use the portable probe to gather patient data, which can then be sent to specialists' half-way around the world for study and quick diagnosis.
2. New Prostate Treatment Method: Bubbles
Traditional treatment of prostate growths involves inserting a metal tool into the prostate and scraping away malignant cells lining the walls. At the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, a team of urologists have developed a more effective and less invasive method, using incredibly focused ultrasound pulses. The pulses create microscopic bubbles out of dissolved gas in prostate tissue. When these bubbles collapse, they release acoustic shock waves that, over thousands of repetitions, liquefy prostate growths. This is the first time that cavitation has been controlled well enough to be used as a tool at such microscopic level.
3. Treating Tumors with Microwaves
Liver cancer is becoming more common in the US Traditional treatment involves either transplant or open surgery. But at UC San Diego's Medical Center, a new tool is being used to remove liver tumors: microwave ablation. The procedure involves accessing the liver via a small skin incision and piercing the cancerous tumor with a thin antenna that emits microwaves at temperatures above 60 degrees Celsius, causing cellular death in the tumor usually after 10 minutes.
4. Gamma Camera
New high-resolution gamma cameras are allowing doctors to detect breast cancer more effectively than with traditional mammograms or clinical exams. This new method is called breast-specific gamma imaging (BSGI). But the possible uses of gamma imaging are not limited to breast cancer only. High-resolution gamma cameras are becoming one of the most important tools for early detection of many different types of cancers.
5. First Steps toward Robotic Surgeries
Medical equipment is supposed to help human beings perform medical procedures. But the day may not be far when human hands are not needed at all during surgeries. Unassisted, robot-performed surgeries are a possibility that engineers at Duke University are working to make reality. Using a basic, tabletop robot, 3-D ultrasound technology and an artificial intelligence program, researchers were able to create a robot that could perform many basic tasks required during surgeries on its own. More research and development is needed before surgery robots become viably usable, but the first steps have been taken.