Micromedicine – Mini devices make medicine more human

The  hearing aid  in the ear is considered to be one of the first small medical devices. But there is a big difference between “small” and “micro”. The innovative approaches of micromedicine use the dwarf dimensions of high-performance sensors, valves or pumps. The care of chronically ill patients can be significantly improved through the continuous transmission of the measured values ​​to the treating doctor and an optimal adjustment of the therapy. Cardiovascular patients in particular benefit from this.

Drug delivery systems – precise dosing

New drug delivery systems, so-called drug delivery systems, work with valves or pumps that can bring a drug directly to the point of treatment. This makes continuous pain treatment possible, for example. A dosing pump can also be used under the skin in diabetes treatment.

Drug delivery systems also include the disc-like containers that can be implanted just under the skin. They release the smallest amounts (microliters = millionths of a liter) of medication continuously or at specific intervals. Such components, so-called smart pills, are available in the smallest dimensions of 6 by 14 by 2 millimeters.

Gentle interventions in the organism

Treatment with microtherapy is carried out, among other things, for  damaged discs , in pain and tumor therapy and for the treatment of vascular diseases. Micromedicine is used both medicinally and surgically. The pioneer and undisputed “Pope” of micromedicine is Prof. Dietrich Grönemeyer, who heads the first and so far only chair for micromedicine at the University of Witten/Herdecke.

Prof. Grönemeyer developed a large number of his miniature instruments himself based on radiological processes and innovative imaging processes, the development of which was pushed ahead rapidly from the mid-1980s. These include, among other things, mini balloons that straighten the spinal column elements again.

The spine specialists at the Grönemeyer Institute for MicroTherapy in Bochum are transferring what was previously only known from cardiology, the dilation of heart vessels with a balloon catheter, to the spine. In balloon kyphoplasty, two balloons are placed in the vertebral body and gently inflated with fluid under pressure. This raises the collapsed endplate of the vertebral body and creates a cavity that is then filled with special bone cement.

The process is precisely controlled in the computer tomograph and with additional X-ray control in order to avoid complications.

The patient is wide awake and the treatment area is only locally anesthetized. “A number of our patients have been in severe pain for many weeks, and some are in wheelchairs. It’s nice to see that many can move around again without help a short time after the treatment,” explains Prof. Dietrich Grönemeyer.

In a few years everyday medical practice

Other micromedical devices will be part of everyday medical life in a few years. These include, for example, ECG devices whose electrodes are integrated into T-shirts or undershirts, or new systems for continuous blood pressure or blood sugar measurement. A radio chip that is planted under the skin can be read out at lightning speed in an emergency and thus provide blood group information and relevant medical data, for example.

The chip is only activated when you approach it with a reader. While privacy advocates are up in arms about this development, emergency medics see it as a major step forward for on-site care for accident victims.

Telemetric Microsystems – Long-distance surveillance

The focus of research and product development is currently on so-called telemetric microsystems. So e.g. B. Patients and risk groups can be monitored or medication  dosed over long periods of time and distances  . The most important technology trends are bio and pressure sensors as well as microfluidic structures and electrodes.

At the University of Tübingen, a chip with 1,500 light-sensitive cells will be glued to the retina of blind people over the next few months. Light falling on the sensors triggers stimulus currents on the retina, which are conducted from the optic nerve to the brain. Patients whose stimulus conduction still works could then at least recognize contours again.

Research results in the field of intraocular pressure measurement and the development of a platform that allows external telemetric monitoring of risk patients nationwide are also promising. Further information: Despite recognized technology and successes, the health insurance companies have a hard time with micromedicine.

The Grönemeyer Institute for Microtherapy in Bochum is a privately run company. A possible assumption of costs should be clarified in advance with the respective health insurance company.

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