Top 5 amazing medical implants
Plugging a heart into the wall, implanting radioactive seeds, and using hydraulics to create erections, medical implants are advancing at an astounding pace.
What once seemed like far-fetched science fiction is now fast becoming a reality. We picked our top five amazing implants. Here they are in descending order.5. Radioactive seed implants
Radioactive seed implants, also called brachytherapy, is used to treat early stage prostate cancer.
Small rice-sized radioactive seeds are implanted into the prostate by using a tube-like needle. The radioactive emissions from the seeds attack the tumour in a similar way to external radiation.
The radiation usually only travels for a very short distance, and does not adversely affect the area around the prostate, as can radiotherapy.
It is a bit like sneaking a bomb into enemy territory.
4. Bionic eye
Until recently, the ability to restore sight was just not something we could get right. But that seems to be changing. There are a number of amazing techniques in the pipeline, but the bionic eye makes our list for its glittering sci-fi appeal.
A grid of electrodes is surgically planted into the eye to form an artificial retina. But this retina does not see by itself: a small camera is mounted on a special pair of glasses. The information is then processed by a small computer, and wirelessly transmitted to the artificial retina.
As yet, these bionic eyes are only delivering very poor and rudimentary vision. But, this is the kind of technology that can only get better.
3. Deep brain stimulation
With deep brain stimulation, electrodes are implanted into particular areas of the brain. From here, wires run under the skin to a neurostimulator implanted in the chest.
The technique has been used with some success for Parkinson’s disease and is being put on trial as a treatment for depression. Exactly why electrical pulses may send your blues packing is still unknown.
In whatever way it works, an implant that regulates your mood sounds so sci-fi that it was always going to make our list.
2. 2. Hydraulic penal implants
When medication fails to get rid of erectile dysfunction, the next step may well be a penile implant.
Hydraulic penile implants consist of three main parts: two cylinders that are implanted into the penis, a pump implanted into the scrotum, and a fluid reservoir in the lower abdomen.
When a man wants an erection, he simply uses the pump to pump liquid into the cylinders, which makes them expand, and the penis erect. There are some risks associated with implanting these devices. But they do have a remarkably good satisfaction rate. This one makes our list for the innovative way in which it applies simple engineering principles inside the body.
1. Heart pumps
Imagine you are feeling a bit tired. You feel light-headed, and your heart is struggling. You sit down, plug yourself into the wall socket, and soon everything clears up and your heart is beating normally again.
So-called heart pumps help the hearts of certain heart failure patients pump more blood. Effectively, these pumps take over the work of one or two of the lower heart ventricles.
The implanted pump is powered by batteries which are carried outside the body. And in some cases, patients can power their pumps by plugging them directly into a wall socket.
A truly artificial heart may still be very far off, but heart pumps already represent one of the most amazing ways in which life can be extended.