How Are You Influencing Portable Medical Technology?

Technical Marketing Engineer, Micro Power Electronics Inc.

Micro Power Electronics specializes in the design and manufacture of custom battery packs that power portable medical devices. The latest generation of rechargeable lithium-ion cells is based on lithium iron phosphate cathode chemistry; this nano-material can deliver very high currents (50 to 100 amps). The combination of this new battery chemistry, combined with Micro Power's ability to develop batteries that can withstand the harsh environments of sterilization, enables a new generation of surgical tools that are lighter, smaller, and more powerful than the previous generation. Micro Power can develop battery packs using this battery chemistry that can withstand the most common types of sterilization–autoclave, hydrogen peroxide plasma, and gamma radiation. These sterilization techniques provide many challenges for batteries, such as corrosive chemicals, drastic pressure differentials, and high temperatures. Micro Power's deign expertise, coupled with these new lithium iron phosphate cells, is especially relevant to high power surgical tools, such as endoscopes with powerful LEDs or large bone saws and drills.

Worldwide Strategic Marketing Manager, Healthcare Group, Analog Devices

Portable ultrasound is showing great promise in helping patients in emergency rooms, ambulances, and rural areas around the world. Over the last several years, large, cart-based systems have shrunk to the size of a large laptop, and more recently, have become small enough to fit into a physician's coat pocket. Signostics, for example, last year introduced the "Signos," a personal ultrasound device weighing just half a pound that can be worn around the neck like a stethoscope.

This remarkable reduction in ultrasound size is due to the ability of engineers to shrink the components that make up the ultrasound receive chain. This system consists of four basic elements: a low-noise amplifier, a variable-gain amplifier, an anti-aliasing filter, and a 12-bit analog-to-digital converter. A portable ultrasound system generally comprises 16 to 64 of these chains, or channels (the more channels, the greater the image quality and dynamic range).

By integrating all of the channels onto a single piece of silicon, Analog Devices' Healthcare Group has developed the AD927x family of octal ultrasound receivers, enabling system designers to replace many discrete components with a single integrated circuit while maintaining or enhancing performance. Various members of this family are allowing designers to emphasize different portable ultrasound features, such as image quality vs. power consumption, providing physicians with even more options for patient diagnostic care.

Vice President and General Manager, Tadiran Batteries

Recent technological innovations should cause us to rethink the standard definition of a portable medical device, which has historically focused on devices worn by either the provider or the patient and are typically powered by alkaline or rechargeable batteries.

For example, the rapid evolution of GPS and RFID technology has creating exciting possibilities for long-term applications that provide time-stamped data, tracking the location and status of medical devices, patient and provider id, case histories, services, and medications dispensed.

Power management solutions involving high-energy lithium thionyl chloride batteries enable medical devices to operate maintenance-free for up to 30 years without battery replacement, as these high-energy cells feature incredibly high capacity, high energy density, robustness, and safety. Lithium thionyl chloride batteries can also be easily modified to withstand chemical and autoclave sterilization temperatures as high as 125°C without removing the battery, thus ensuring a continuous data stream for more reliable reporting.

For years, lithium thionly chloride batteries have also been trusted to power automatic external defibrillators that often go untouched for extended periods but are required to operate reliably in lifesaving emergencies. In addition, ultra-high power lithium batteries allow portable surgical devices to be much smaller and lighter, providing major ergonomic benefits to surgeons.

President, InterTech Development Company

In portable home care technology, where each unit might need 100 or more tests during assembly to ensure product integrity and failsafe patient safety, shortening test cycle times through flexible technology implementations has considerable bottom line implications.

Making the mistake of thinking that the least expensive leak detector one can buy off the shelf will create the most cost-effective assembly and test systems is an expensive miscalculation. Custom sensors and the flexibility to switch between different test types and parameters are all important. This is as true of portable on-demand oxygen delivery systems as it is for home dialysis machines, sleep apnea treatment devices, and a wide range of other portable medical devices that require very test-intensive assembly operations.

InterTech Development Company has shown many portable medical device manufacturers how to decrease test cycle times up to 70% by eliminating the hidden costs of generic mass-produced test boxes. It's those types of savings that translate into much faster-time-to-market for new products and decreased costs of production for existing models.

CEO, Numerical Algorithms Group

The computational power operating many portable medical devices is well beyond what was expected from the first "supercomputers." This is apparent to our research organization, the Numerical Algorithms Group. Though perhaps rarely given focus, the entire portable medical device industry is hugely dependent on the new directions that computational science and engineering develops.

Currently, the NAG research organization has been participating in numerous studies of programming with graphical processor units (GPUs) (e.g., a Tesla card with 240 cores), which hold the potential for medical devices in the near future to be far faster and more precise, as well as performing well beyond the benchmarks that are considered best-in-class today. For example, the Numerical Algorithms Group was recently part of a research team using GPUs for Monte Carlo Simulations that were 200 times faster.

Because of these research initiatives, GPUs, which originally were strictly used for video games and Hollywood animations, will soon be put to the task of saving patients' lives in robust and portable medical devices, processing orders of magnitude more data for routine operations.