In MedTech History

By Tracy Schaaf, Senior Writer/Analyst, MedTech Strategist

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." – Sir Isaac Newton, 1675

Over the past year here in our ‘In MedTech History’ blog series, we have highlighted many groundbreaking pioneers who—against all odds, and sometimes against the medical establishment at the time—looked at what was possible in terms of diagnosing and treating serious diseases and conditions and said, “There has to be a better way.” Through trial and error over time, medical device inventions—such as X-rays, neurostimulators, insulin pumps, dialysis machines, ultrasound, and intraocular lenses, to name just a few—brought to life by passionate, determined innovators from around the globe have left an indelible mark on patient care and quality of life. Today, it is difficult to imagine the practice of modern medicine without these technologies.


In MedTech History:
Bariatric Surgery

Amidst a growing counterculture sparked by the Vietnam War and the US civil rights movement, bariatric surgery as we know it today had its beginnings in 1965 in a research laboratory at the University of Iowa. Today, as obesity reaches epidemic proportions, bariatric surgery has established its place as the most effective treatment for achieving substantial weight loss and improving or even resolving comorbid conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and sleep apnea, especially in the morbidly obese.

In MedTech History: Cardiac Ablation

Atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia, affects millions of people worldwide. Thanks to pioneering work by Melvin Scheinman, MD and others nearly 40 years ago in catheter ablation, the need for open-heart surgery or long-term drug therapy for hundreds of thousands of patients with AF or other serious heart rhythm disturbances has been nearly eliminated.

In MedTech History: Colonoscopy

The turbulent late 1960s were marked by Vietnam protests, Woodstock, and man’s first steps on the Moon. It was also the dawn of the era of colonoscopy, one of the most significant tools we have against colorectal cancer—the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and second leading cause of cancer death in the US.


In MedTech History: Diabetes Technology

Advancements in diabetes management technologies couldn’t be coming at a more opportune time: the disease is now the most costly chronic illness in the US, according to the American Diabetes Association. This two-part series looks at pioneering early work in this space that laid the groundwork for today’s data- and analytics-powered systems from device companies such as DexCom/TypeZero Technologies and Tandem Diabetes Care. [Read Part 1] [Read Part 2]

In MedTech History: Dialysis Innovation

End-stage renal disease treatment is a little known but dominant cost driver for the global healthcare system, with a critical and costly unmet need: maintaining healthy and functional access to the bloodstream. In this 3-part series, we take a look at the World War II origins of this life-saving treatment, recent device innovations by Healionics and Laminate Medical Technologies, and the innovation-spurring, ongoing KidneyX: Redesign Dialysis competition, organized by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the American Society of Nephrology. [Read Part 1] [Read Part 2] [Read Part 3]

In MedTech History: Heart Failure Technology

In this edition of “In MedTech History,” we take a look at heart failure, the reason for more hospitalizations of older Americans than any other condition. Researchers from MIT, Harvard University, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, the Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research (AMBER) Center, and National University of Ireland Galway are developing a first-of-its-kind implant that they hope can deliver stem cells and other therapies directly to heart muscle damaged by myocardial infarction, and positively impact the cascade of events leading to heart failure.


In MedTech History: Heart Valve Technology

In the early 50s, American surgeon Charles Hufnagel, MD began saving lives with a first-of-its-kind plastic aortic assist valve. Today, thanks to this pioneering work, transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) is firmly established as a safe and effective procedure for treating symptomatic patients with severe aortic stenosis. And, the transcatheter mitral valve repair (TMVR) space is advancing quickly.

In MedTech History: Hip Replacement

In 1940, World War II was raging across Europe, color TV was transmitted for the first time, the first US superhighway was opened, and a seismic shift took place in orthopedic surgery that would change the lives of patients with intractable hip arthritis pain or fractures – the first hip replacement surgery with a metal implant was performed.

In MedTech History: The Human Genome

The year 2003 was historic for a number of reasons: the Iraq War, the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and her crew, and the conclusion of the world's largest collaborative biological project: the Human Genome Project. The knowledge gained from this successful 13-year scientific endeavor has since ushered in an emerging era in genomics and precision medicine, making it possible to predict, diagnose, and treat diseases more precisely and personally than ever.


In MedTech History: Magnetic Resonance Imaging

The year 1977 was momentous not only as the year that the personal computer revolution began, but also as the first time that the world saw whole-body MRI images. Now, this magnetic field and radio wave-based technology is a staple of medical imaging, used to noninvasively diagnose a variety of conditions ranging from torn ligaments to tumors.

In MedTech History: Mammography

From its beginnings more than 100 years ago as a simple radiographic image of mastectomy tissue specimens to its present status as the gold standard method of breast cancer detection, mammography serves a critical role in detecting a disease that one in every eight women will be diagnosed with in her lifetime.

In MedTech History: Neurostimulation

In this week’s installment of our “MedTech History” series, we take a look at implantable neurostimulation/neuromodulation devices, which have their technical roots in cardiac pacing in the 1950s, but today are helping to restore function and improve quality of life for a growing list of serious neurological diseases and disorders. There have been a number of significant “firsts” in the space recently, including Cala Health’s FDA clearance for its Cala ONE neuromodulation therapy for transient relief of hand tremors in adults with essential tremor, and NeuroPace’s launch of its Next Gen RNS System, a brain-computer interface for the treatment of refractory epilepsy.


In MedTech History: Oncology

Fueled by the passion of pioneering physicists, physicians and medical device innovators looking for a way to fight cancer and make an impact on patient survival and quality of life, cutting-edge oncology devices under development today include an implant designed to infuse chemotherapies directly into aggressive pancreatic tumors, and an MRI-safe robotic system for breast biopsy.

In MedTech History: Ophthalmic Implants

In this 2-part blog post, we look back at one of the greatest milestones in medical history, the development of the intraocular lens, which forever changed the way we see the world. We also discuss three key trends to watch in this space, according to Andrew Iwach, MD, Executive Director of the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco, and look at new, next-gen technologies for treating cataracts from RxSight, Perfect Lens, AcuFocus, and Omega Ophthalmics. [Read Part 1] [Read Part 2]

In MedTech History: Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH), a progressive, incurable disease leading to right heart failure that strikes mostly women in the prime of life, has limited treatment options beyond some of the most expensive drugs covered by Medicare. TCT 2018 Shark Tank winner Aria CV hopes to impact the poor prognosis for this disease by focusing its first-of-a-kind, fully implantable device on a fundamental new mechanism of action—mimicking the function of a healthy pulmonary artery.


In MedTech History:
Rosalyn Yalow, PhD

Many of the world’s greatest scientific discoveries have been made by women in medtech history. This post celebrates Rosalyn Yalow, PhD, an American medical physicist who was a co-winner of The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1977—the first American woman to be honored with this achievement—for the development of radioimmunoassay (RIA). The method of measuring previously unidentifiable peptide hormones revolutionized biological and medical research, and led to many of today’s key diagnostics technologies.

In MedTech History: Stroke

As recently as 15 years ago, acute ischemic stroke patients had few treatment options. The arrival of the pioneering—and at the time, controversial—MERCI Retrieval System on the US market in 2004 served to transform the treatment paradigm for this devastating and costly condition by offering physicians and patients a long-awaited fast-acting, life-saving intervention.

In MedTech History: Surgical Robotics

In this two-part post, we celebrate the evolution of one of today’s most competitive and rapidly evolving medical technology markets, surgical robotics, including discussions with key executives from Verb Surgical, CMR Surgical, Titan Medical, and Mazor Robotics. We also look at how this emerging space—which is transitioning to incorporate advanced imaging, machine learning and artificial intelligence—promises to optimize surgery and patient outcomes, and positively impact rising healthcare costs. [Read Part 1] [Read Part 2]


In MedTech History: Surgical Robotics: An Evolution in Progress

As a follow-up to the popular two-part ‘In MedTech History’ installation, Surgical Robotics, this post focuses on the indelible mark robotics has left on surgery over the past three decades. Now, with the added elements of connectivity and data, we’ve only just begun to realize the full potential of this game-changing technology.

In MedTech History: Traumatic Brain Injury

From ancient battlefields to today’s ball fields, the “silent epidemic” of traumatic brain injury (TBI) was and is a major cause of death and disability globally, but diagnosing the condition has not changed substantially over the last 50 years. BrainScope, hopes to change all this by assessing patients with a multi-modal panel of capabilities including EEG-based technology and Artificial Intelligence.

In MedTech History: Ultrasound

In this two-part post, the Community Blog takes a look back at the history of one of the world’s most versatile and essential medical technologies, ultrasound, and notable recent first-of-their-kind advancements from Butterfly Network and GE Healthcare. [Read Part 1] [Read Part 2]