Handheld medical devices make it easier for physicians to gain faster diagnostic results.

Product miniaturization, Part 2: Medical industry

While many think of the electronics when the topic of product miniaturization arises, it is certainly not the only industry pursuing this global trend. The medical industry has been striving toward device miniaturization for years to combat new and existing medical challenges, along with empowering physicians to provide overall better quality care to their patients.

With rising medical equipment and healthcare costs, the industry as a whole is looking for more affordable and portable devices to meet a wider range of needs. Instead of requiring hospitals to invest large sums in bulky medical equipment, medical manufacturers are discovering new ways to miniaturize their products, making them less costly and more functional than ever before.

Researchers are developing smaller medical devices to offer less invasive surgical alternatives for patients.
Researchers are developing smaller medical devices to offer less invasive surgical alternatives for patients.

How could the medical industry benefit from miniaturized products?
Smaller devices not only means lower costs for health care providers, it also means health care workers can access diagnostic results faster, which can save lives. For example, pacemaker researchers were a few of the earliest pioneers in medical device miniaturization. They strove to not only reduce the size and weight of these devices, but to also improve their diagnosis controls. These portable pacemakers offer improved patient comfort and reliable medical results.

Beyond pacemakers, affordable costs and greater patient mobility, there are numerous other advantages product miniaturization offers to the medical industry.

"Medical device miniaturization offers more than just portability and affordability."

"Advantages of these devices include power consumption requirements being met by batteries rather than a power cord, lending support to autonomous device operation, and dedicated systems-on-chip that integrate as much functionality as possible to optimize power consumption and performance, as well as minimizing the number of separate components that have to be individually melded and controlled," Larry Gerrans wrote for Medical Design Technology magazine. "This is especially important for implantable devices that impose strict limitations on device size, shape, weight and reliability."

What innovations are underway in medical device miniaturization?
Medical device miniaturization offers more than just portability and affordability for health care workers. Researchers across the world are developing dynamic, smaller electronic devices that answer the demand for less invasive surgical procedures. Today, many everyday procedures require days or weeks of recovery time for patients, leading to losses in income and amassing medical bills. Therefore, researchers are addressing this problem by designing even smaller devices that promote faster recovery times.

Spencer Magleby, a Brigham Young University mechanical engineering professor, announced in a university press release that his team is creating surgical instruments that would be so small that they can enter a 3-millimeter-wide hole. This innovation will speed up post-operative recovery time significantly, allowing essential surgeries to become less invasive and laborious, along with opening up the possibilities for a "whole new range of surgeries to be performed."

"Those who design spacecraft want their products to be small and compact because space is at a premium on a spacecraft, but once you get in space, they want those same products to be large, such as solar arrays or antennas," Magleby explained in the press release. "There's a similar idea here: We'd like something to get quite small to go through the incision, but once it's inside, we'd like it to get much larger."

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