A few years back a friend of mine had surgery on his knee to repair a torn ACL (the main ligament in the knee). They put him under. Two hours later when he woke up there were three tiny incisions – no more than half an inch long.
Today, you can't even see the scars.
Twenty years ago surgeons would run a scalpel from the top of your thigh halfway down your shin. And this scar would be visible from across the room.
The evolution of medical devices over the last twenty years is astonishing. But the biggest medical patent opportunities for the next 100 years won't be developments in better tools for surgeons. They'll be tools that begin to replace surgeons altogether.
The Flood of Medical Patents for Robots
Half of all prostate cancer operations in the U.S. are performed by the da Vinci surgical robot. It stands nearly 5 feet tall and has four mechanical "arms" with cameras and interchangeable tools to cut, pinch and snip cancer into oblivion.
Patented Prostate Removal Robot
Over 1,000 of these robots are in operation around the world, at a price tag of one million bucks each (that's over a billion dollars worth of robots for prostate cancer alone!)
The robot is controlled by a surgeon who sits in a nearby room in what looks like a video game control cockpit. In this cockpit the surgeon watches several screens and controls the mechanical arms with perfect precision.
Because this approach to prostate surgery spares delicate nerves, this is a cancer cure that doesn't leave men impotent and incontinent.
Tools for the DaVinci Robot
This is a far cry from prostate surgery years ago when surgeons couldn't even see the prostate and had to rely on feel alone to remove the cancerous gland.
A Growing Trend for Medical Devices
Robots are not just confined to operating on prostate cancer. Hearts, throats, joints, spines and brains are being mended with the help of these new addition of medical devices. And it doesn't look to stop anytime soon.
- Cardiac surgeons are using robots to perform bypass surgery without using rib spreaders
- Robots make it possible to extract a cancerous thyroid gland through the patients armpit, instead of through the throat which leaves a nasty scar
- Some throat surgeries used to require large incisions, pulled teeth and broken jaws...now robots enter and exit through the mouth
Who knows...in a few years my friends tiny incisions to replace his ACL may seem barbaric. A Florida company, Mako Surgical, holds a patent on a robotic arm to assist in surgery on arthritic knees.