Implantable Wireless Medical Devices 31 Treating Bone Defects

As mentioned above, while monitoring human health through the use of wireless technologies is important, so is using that information to treat a medical problem (should it be diagnosed). A great example of this approach is through the use of implantable wireless medical devices for diagnosing and treating orthopedic problems. In the United States, annually an estimated 1.5 million people suffer a bone fracture caused by various bone diseases, resulting in 165,000 hip joints and 326,000 knees replacements in 2001 (Smith 2004; Bren 2004). The number of orthopedic implant surgeries is increasing. For example, according to the American

Table 3 Examples of on-going academic research on wireless physiological measurement systems

Research applications/vendor



CodeBlue: wireless sensor networks for medical care, Harvard University

Wireless physiological sensors for ambulatory and implantable applications, Tampere University of Technology

Wireless implantable sensors with advanced on-body data processing, Queen Mary College, University of London

Exploring applications of wireless sensor network technology to raise alerts when the vital signs of patients fall outside the normal range

The study and development of a new wireless sensor technology for ambulatory and implantable human psychophysiological applications. The goal is to develop commercially mass-produced physiological measurement systems, based on patch-type sensors and implantable smart wireless devices

The proposed feasibility study aims to deliver a clinically viable strategy that can provide a wireless connected system for implantable electrophysiological and metabolic monitoring sensors, enhancing existing capabilities in both wireless and sensor technology

Medical care/ military

Medical care, research, and military

Medical care

Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, there was an 83.72% increase in the number of hip replacements performed from nearly 258,000 procedures in 2000 to 474,000 procedures (including 234,000 total and 240,000 partial hip replacements) in 2004. The total hospitalization costs for knee replacements doubled to $11.38 billion in 2003 compared with $5.67 billion in 1999 (American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons 2010). Despite the increasing demand and cost of orthopedic implants, the durability of implants has not risen as most of the current implants serve only 10-15 years (Webster 2003).

All of these statistics bring a challenge of developing durable, affordable, and better orthopedic implants to the bone community, but the question is how? And, can the design and use of wireless orthopedic medical devices help? Integrating materials science and bone biology is probably one of the best solutions and most importantly, can create better interfaces between the implant and bone. More excitingly, the emergence of nanomaterials (materials with size scales within 1-100 nm, i.e., 10-9-10-8 m) and nanotechnology (the research and development related to nanoscale materials) during the last two decades has brought more anticipation to solve the chronic challenge of creating better bone implants and wireless orthopedic devices. Here, we will introduce the frontier of exploring biological responses on implant materials, especially nanoscale materials and wireless devices, and how the design and fabrication of implant surfaces based on these explorations can ultimately aid in bone health. But first, we must discuss what biological events would need to be controlled by wireless orthopedic medical devices to treat bone problems.

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