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The Importance of Implantable Medical Devices in the Health Care Field

written by: Lashan Clarke • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 12/31/2010

Since the creation of the pacemaker as one of the first implantable medical devices, other devices have been created to treat or monitor medical conditions. This article will give an overview of the most popular implanted medical devices.

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    An implantable medical device is an item that is used to diagnose, monitor or treat a known medical condition. These implantable device can also be used for pain control. Therefore, the importance of such devices is that they are planted within an organ or area that is mal-functioning. The use of implanted medical devices is regulated by the Food & Drug Administration. It was estimated that at least 500,000 devices have been placed within patients since this technology was first created.

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    History of Implantable Medical Devices

    Compared to other medical procedures, the history of implanting medical devices is still fairly young. The first confirmed case of a medical device implanted into the body occurred in Sweden in 1958. The well-known medical institute called the Karolinska Institute successfully implanted a pacemaker into the heart muscle of a patient.

    It was previously during the beginning of this year that the technology for an external pacemaker was developed in Minnesota. The scientists in Sweden just improved on this technology to have the pacemaker within the heart muscle.

    In 1959, the second known implanted device was a catheter electrode placed into a patient’s vein. The vein was fed into the heart to increase the rate the heart pumped blood to provide oxygen and nutrients. Since then implanted devices for medical purposes have improved dramatically to the point that there are now implanted devices for non-medical purposes such as a chip to turn on a light switch.

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    Common Implantable Medical Devices

    Pacemakers & Defibrillators

    Pacemakers and defibrillators are the most well known of all implantable devices. This is not because it was the first device to be created, but rather because of its importance in maintaining and saving the lives of people who use them.

    When implanted, these devices will monitor the electrical activity of the heart. By doing so, it can determine when the person’s heart is not functioning correctly and make adjustments to the rate at which the heart pumps blood.

    These implants are affected at both monitoring the heart for times when the heart is beating too slowly. They are also effective in the cases in which the heart rate is out of control. The pacemaker will send a gentle shock to the muscle to get the situation back to normal.

    Cochlear Implants

    Another well known examples of implanted medical devices are cochlear implants. These small implanted devices function to improve sound to so many people who need it. These devices can be placed into the ear and detect the sound waves that people who are hard of hearing or noticeably deaf need. The cochlear implant is connected to auditory nerve, and the sound is then interpreted by the brain. Therefore, this implant is used to give someone with difficulty hearing, the possibility of leading a normal life.