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Implantable medical devices are becoming increasingly capable

As baby boomers and the members of Generation X reach retirement age and beyond, the reliability of medical care around the world has arguably never been more important. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 5 people in the U.S. will be age 65 or older by 2030. Major technological advances helped prolong the lives of many people to get us to this point, but plenty of the illnesses and injuries common among the middle-aged and elderly aren't going to disappear any time soon. 

Implantable medical devices loom large among the developments to transform and improve health care; AMETEK ECP produces several of the components essential to the successful performance of these machines. In recent years the capabilities of these devices have only broadened, resulting in better health for patients and increased revenues for device manufacturers. Let's look at today's market for implantable medical tech and review specific advancements within the industry. 

The implantable market at a glance

According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, U.S. sales of implantable medical devices could reach $74 billion by 2018. This marks a notable increase over the past seven years, starting from approximately $43 billion in 2011. About 7.2 million Americans currently have joint implants in their bodies, and each year about 1 million have knee and hip replacements surgically implanted. Meanwhile, nearly 370,000 cardiac pacemakers are given to patients in the U.S. annually. 
Some of these devices are intended for temporary use and are removed once the desired result is achieved. Others are permanent, when continuous operation is necessary for patients' ongoing health problems. Most often, this is the case for pacemakers or implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs). 

'Living stents' and epilepsy treatment

While ICDs and pacemakers are some of the most commonly seen implantable medical devices, they're hardly the only such items used for cardiovascular treatment. Medical Design Technology magazine pointed out a new stent developed by the Elixir Medical Corporation; it keeps arteries open and degrades over time to restore normal blood flow once the heart recovers from whatever complication the stent was inserted to resolve. This device remodels itself over time in tandem with the arterial healing process, taking about six months. Extensive clinical trials found that the scaffold implant contributed to sustainable cardiovascular improvement, even years after it broke down completely in the body.

Better management of chronic pain 

The Nevro HF10, implanted in the lower back to assist patients with sciatica and other causes of persistent back pain, also represents a major advancement in implantable health care devices. External controls delivered via RF communications deliver a stimulating feeling at 10,000 megahertz, a significant uptick from the more common 10-100 Hz range. Despite the strength of the signal, it was found to minimize uncomfortable sensations that caused patients problems when trying to drive their cars or sleep, all while still providing significant pain relief.

Tackling drug-resistant epilepsy

Implantable devices are now being deployed for neurological treatment, an immensely delicate area requiring great care on the part of all doctors, surgeons and other health care professionals involved. Specifically, implants have been quite successful in helping patients with epilepsy manage their symptoms on a daily basis. But until the October 2017, when SenTiva from LiveNova hit the market, these devices weren't effective with drug-resistant epilepsy.

The new product, implanted underneath the clavicle and around the vagus nerve in a minimally invasive outpatient procedure, stimulates the nerve at regular intervals. This interrupts brain activity that is known to precede seizures. Stronger circuits and electrodes than those used in LiveNova's previous epilepsy-control implants deliver signals strong enough to mitigate seizure frequency and severity, even for drug-resistant epilepsy patients.
medical applications
Regulatory issues and potential challenges  No industry is without its ups and downs, and implantable medical devices are no exception. Growth prospects are high, with Market Research Engine projecting a 7.8% CAGR between 2020 and 2025 and a value of $26.75 billion by that time. But device manufacturers must acknowledge and address certain potential trouble spots within the market.

Regulations surrounding the use of these devices vary considerably. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration divides them into three categories - Classes I, II and III - which increase in severity. Most implantable items fall under Class III, and some of the newest members of the implantable device family haven't gone through the full review process necessary for their legal sale in America. Manufacturers must apply design changes if requested by the FDA, which can slow down their path to broader use. 

Cybersecurity is another undeniable concern for the companies developing implantable medical devices. While assassination via hacked pacemaker sounds like something out of science fiction, the Telegraph noted that wireless reprogramming of these items is, though difficult, absolutely possible. Moreover, the possibility of compromising medical devices to collect personal medical information - for any number of malicious reasons - can't be ignored. Lastly, the chance, however slim, of unprecedented massive failure also hovers over producers in this industry, even when device design has become more complex and effective than ever before.

AMETEK providing a foundation for implantable devices

The engineers at AMETEK ECP are experienced in designing components for many medical applications, including diagnostic equipment, imaging equipment and implants. Glass-to-metal seals for battery capacitors and ends, solder preforms and microstampings for some of the smallest chips and circuitry in the industry - these are just a few of the products AMETEK manufactures to help ensure implantable medical device function. Internal pumps, pacemakers, cochlear implants and defibrillators, among other devices, all rely on and thrive through the use of our components. For more information on the electronic components and packaging we provide medical device manufacturers around the world, visit our medical devices page.


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