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Small health tech, big benefits

How groundbreaking miniaturized healthcare technology creates better outcomes

A minuscule camera begins its trek through the gastrointestinal tract, directly visualizing the tissue with advanced optics and producing clear images that help physicians detect abnormalities. If these images reveal anything out of the ordinary, such as a polyp or tumor, clinicians can consider developing a treatment plan. This once sounded like science fiction, but today miniaturized health tech is transforming the delivery of care and creating better experiences for patients and doctors.

By making healthcare technology smaller, we can enable minimally invasive surgery and at-home diagnostic procedures. Why is that important? Minimally invasive surgery often results in shorter hospital stays so patients recover faster and, hopefully, beat their disease. Our flexible healthcare solutions are also shifting some diagnostic procedures from hospitals to patient homes, delivering unparalleled convenience. Healthcare technology may be shrinking, but the benefits it can deliver are growing exponentially.

When Medtronic co-founder Earl Bakken developed the first battery-powered pacemaker in the late 1950s, the revolutionary technology was about the size of a small paperback book. Today, some Medtronic pacemakers are as small as a multivitamin and can be delivered directly into the heart via transcatheter.

Unlike a conventional device, these leadless pacemakers do not create a scar or bump under the skin. By shrinking the size of our healthcare technology, we can help patients live without a constant reminder of their medical condition.

Today, our smallest pacemaker is about 93% smaller than conventional ones. And advancements in miniaturization technology have also helped shrink the size of our implantable cardiac monitors to one-third the size of a AAA battery. Recently approved for patients over 2 years old, our tiny wireless monitors are now helping pediatric patients with heart abnormalities. And when our miniaturized health tech is paired with remote monitoring technologies, patients can often be assessed from the comfort of their own home. By creating flexible healthcare solutions, we are thinking big by going small.

Sometimes, the best ideas in healthcare technology start off small and get even smaller. Consider our ingestible capsule used by doctors all over the world to find gastrointestinal abnormalities. Our state-of-the-art visualization technology helps a tiny camera take thousands of images as it travels down the digestive tract, enabling clinicians to find early signs of cancer. And now, because we believe in creating flexible healthcare solutions whenever we can, the system we use to detect abnormalities in the small bowel has been cleared for at-home use in the United States.

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Almost every surgical procedure relies on a tiny piece of healthcare technology: the suture. But not all sutures are created equal. We’re innovating and investing in these devices to deliver a better experience for surgeons and patients. We designed our barbed suture to eliminate knots and consequently, the potential risks of knot-related complications, and to reduce suturing time compared to non-barbed sutures. Our smallest suture is between 0.010 and 0.019mm — the size of a hair on your head. Sutures may be minuscule, but this tiny health tech can make the rest of our innovation possible.

The battery is the beating heart of most medical devices. But how do you make long-lasting batteries without increasing their size or the size of the devices they power? The answer may be wafer-scale technology. Used in semiconductors, wafer-scale manufacturing is a process for building integrated circuits. We believe we’re the first healthcare technology company to use the technique, which helped us increase the battery capacity in one of our implantable cardiac monitors without increasing the size of the device.

As healthcare technology becomes smaller, the benefits for patients and their doctors increase in scope and scale. From supporting minimally invasive surgery to providing at-home diagnostic care, miniaturized health tech is delivering the right solutions to the right place at the right time.