Greatest Medical Devices of All Time

Qmed surveyed its audience about what are the most important medical devices ever developed. The list looks as following, from bottom to top:

  • CT Scanner. It wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that advances in mathematical theory and computer processing allowed for X-ray devices that could distinguish soft tissue by teasing out the differences between slice-by-slice scans of human body. CT scanners marked a significant advance because they further reduced the need for physicians to engage in exploratory surgery of patients.
  • The flexible catheter first made its appearance in the mid-1700s, with no other than Benjamin Franklin creating one to help his brother with his bladder stone issues.
  • Band-aid. People have been dressing wounds with bandages since ancient times. But what about something ready-made that can quickly be stuck around a minor scrape or wound – preventing more serious infections down the road? It was Johnson & Johnson that came up with the solution: the Band-Aid. The invention goes back to 1920 by Earle Dickson.
  • Heart Valves. U.S. surgeon Charles Hufnagel invented the mechanical heart valve in the early 1950s. Although the device proved to be successful in some patients, its design id not allow to be inserted into the heart. Less than a decade later, in 1960, a heart valve was devised that was caged from above and below, enabling it to be implanted into the heart. Perhaps the biggest innovation in heart valves in recent decades is the invention of trans catheter aortic valve implantation, which provides inoperable patients with an alternative to open-heart surgery for valve repair for patients with faulty aortic valves.
  • French physician René Laennec is credited with inventing the first stethoscope in 1816. It marked one of the first times that physicians sought to explore the inner workings of the body without cutting a patient open. These days, acoustic stethoscopes are widely used – a familiar tool used during a visit to the doctor.
  • The roots of modern magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) lie in the research of Colombia University professor Isidor Rabi, who first noted that atomic nuclei absorb or emit radio waves when contained within a strong magnetic field. Rabi eventually was awarded the Nobel Prize for his research. U.S. physician Raymond Vahan Damadian in the late 1960s had the idea for using Rabi’s nuclear magnetic resonance imaging in the form of a full body scanner.
  • The practive of using electrical stimulation to regulate the pace of a heartbeat was first pioneered by researchers in the late 1920s and early 1930s. But a major leap in the technology arguably occurred in 1957. That’s when Earl Bakken developed the first battery operated external pacemaker. Battery-operated pacemakers paved the way for implantable pacemakers, which have been growing smaller ever since. The latest generation of the devices, including Medtronic’s Micra and St. Jude Medical’s Nanostim, are only the size of a pill and are implanted directly inside the heart, doing away with the need to run leads to the organ.
  • X-ray machine. Being able to look inside the human body without cutting it open was a significant advance. Physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen discovered X-rays accidentally in 1895. While experimenting with electrical discharge tubes in his lab, Rontgen noticed a glow coming from a nearby chemically coated screen. Rontgen soon discovered that X-rays penetrated human flesh, but not bone, and that the results could be photographed – a medical miracle.
  • Hypodermic Syringe. Hypodermic syringes, along with the myriad of substances for which they are the prime, if not the only, delivery vehicle, have probably been responsible for saving more lives and alleviating more suffering than any other piece of medical technology. Intravenous injections go back to the 1600s. However, it did not happen until the 1850s that they first used to inject morphine as a painkiller.
  • The use of corrective lenses has come a long way since the Roman Emperor Nero viewed gladiator matches through a concave piece of emerald. Lens designs evolved over the centuries, but eyeglasses weren’t invented until the late 1200s. Eyeglasses evolved significantly starting in the 1800s, leading to the myriad forms of corrective lenses that are available today.



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