Tiny Medtech with Big Benefits

How smaller devices, enhanced visualization, and super-charged batteries support early detection and treatment

A tiny camera begins its trek through the gastrointestinal tract, taking photos at regular intervals. If the camera detects anything out of the ordinary, such as a polyp or tumor, clinicians are quickly notified and can begin developing a treatment plan. It once sounded like a sci-fi story, but today miniaturization and imaging technologies are helping doctors find and treat problems sooner than they would with conventional therapies. And that means patients may ultimately recover faster and, hopefully, beat their disease. Powering these state-of-the-art devices are super-charged batteries that can extend the time patients have between doctors’ appointments or maintenance procedures. It’s technology designed to prevent diseases from robbing patients of their most important moments.

A Legacy of Innovation

When Medtronic co-founder Earl Bakken developed the first implantable pacemaker in the late 1950s, the technology was considered revolutionary. Today, however, our devices can perform the kind of medical marvels that weren’t even on the radar during those early days. From the world’s smallest pacemaker to a robotic-assisted surgical system that relies on state-of-the-art imaging to perform spinal surgery, Medtronic technologies are changing the future of healthcare. Our engineers, scientists, and researchers are making what was once considered impossible, possible.

Mini Medical Marvels

Micra pacemaker in a gloved hand

Decades ago, our scientists and engineers recognized that smaller devices could reduce procedural time, length of hospital stays, and the risk of infection. So we set out to make smaller, smarter devices that are built to last. Today, our tiny devices are having big impacts in the delivery of healthcare. Some of our leadless pacemakers are so small, they can be delivered directly into the heart via a transcatheter.

Our smallest pacemaker is now about the size of a large vitamin, or about 93% smaller than conventional pacemakers. Advancements in miniaturization technology has also helped shrink the size of our implantable cardiac monitors to one-third the size of a AAA battery. By going small, we are thinking big.

Detecting the (Almost) Undetectable

Early detection is key to better outcomes for patients. But how can doctors find early signs of cancer when some polyps are barely detectable by the human eye? Through enhanced visualization technology, doctors can detect and treat lung nodules and colon polyps before they turn into cancer. For example, one of our imaging navigation systems includes a software algorithm that builds a 3D map of the lungs to help doctors make a diagnosis. That same kind of state-of-the-art visualization technology is behind our family of ingestible capsule endoscopy systems. After swallowing a capsule that has either one or two cameras, the system takes thousands of images as it travels down the digestive tract, which can help clinicians spot gastrointestinal abnormalities. To heal patients, clinicians must be able to detect and diagnose the problem. We can help.

“When it comes to lung and colon cancer, we know that early detection and treatment are often the key to better patient outcomes,” explains Dr. John de Csepel, chief medical officer for the Americas Region at Medtronic. “Providing surgeons with tools that can help identify and address a problem sooner means we can help patients recover faster and, hopefully, beat their disease.”

Built to Last

The battery is the beating heart of most medical devices. Making smaller, longer-lasting batteries was the passion that launched our company and drives much of our work today. Already, advances in lithium-ion battery technology are enabling faster recharge times in our spinal cord neurostimulators, giving patients more time to do what they want. That same battery tech powers our sacral neuromodulation system, which provides relief for patients with overactive bladders. By designing a system with batteries built to last for 15 years, we can help people worry less and live more.

Building Better Batteries

How can you build a stronger battery without making the device bigger? It’s a question that’s vexed engineers for years. But with newly developed wafer scale fabrication techniques, we’ve increased the battery size in our latest implantable cardiac monitors without increasing the size of the device. 

Technology Designed for People

Technology is evolving so quickly that it requires healthcare companies to stay focused on what matters most. For us, that means improving the outcomes of the people we serve. By developing devices that are smaller, last longer, and have advanced imaging capabilities, we can help expand what’s possible.

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