Top Innovations in Medicine for 2019 – part 2.

What’s on the horizon for medicine that will change the way doctors treat patients? Every year Cleveland Clinic gathers opinions from their doctors and researchers to determine a list of 10 innovations in medicine they think will shape healthcare for the coming year and beyond. Today’s post covers the innovations 6-10 for 2019. Read last week’s post here to learn about the first five on the list.

#6 Virtual and Mixed Reality for Medical Education

Photo of man wearing Virtual Reality glassesVirtual reality (VR) uses computers to create a simulated environment. Mixed reality (MR) is when computers merge real and virtual worlds to create a new hybrid environment where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact. As technology improves and costs decrease, the use of VR and MR is expanding, including into the world of doctor education. VR/MR is used for training doctors in procedures, techniques, and equipment use. It gives medical students “hands-on” experience before they treat patients. Additionally, it lets doctors and students realistically practice patient interactions.

How will this impact you?

Better training for medical students and for experienced doctors learning new skills is good for everyone!

#7 Visor for Stroke Diagnosis Before the Patients Gets to the Hospital

photo of man on stretcher being put in ambulanceWhen patients have a stroke, rapid treatment is critical, but it can’t start without an accurate diagnosis of stroke. Since many stroke patients call 911, helping EMTs make an accurate stroke diagnosis can have a huge impact. To eliminate any diagnosis guesswork, engineers created a visor that detects changes in cerebral fluids that indicate the patient has suffered a stroke. Making an accurate diagnosis while the patient is in the ambulance allows doctors to quickly begin treatment upon arrival. Additionally, if EMTs diagnose a stroke, they can bring the patient to a hospital with a comprehensive stroke center, which is not always the closest hospital. The visor received FDA clearance in January 2018 and should be in use in 2019.

How well does the visor work?

In studies, the visor was 92% accurate rate in identifying patients that suffered a major stroke. In contrast, EMTs using standard physical examination tools had an accuracy rate ranging between 40-89%.

What does this mean for you?

It’s always a good idea to call 911 if you think that you, or others, are suffering from a stroke. With these visors, calling 911 will not only get you to the appropriate hospital more quickly, it might allow your treatment to start sooner as well. Wondering if your town will provide the visors for their EMTs? Call your city and ask!

#8 Innovation in Robotic Surgery

photo of surgeon using robot assistance during procedureThe use of robotics in surgery is improving things for patients and surgeons. How? So many ways! Robots can make preoperative planning easier and faster. Additionally, surgeons use precision surgical arms to insure proper instrument positioning and implantation during surgery; in some cases robotic arms perform most of the procedure. Robotic assistance increases precision in challenging procedures, which can increase accuracy and safety of a procedure, while reducing cost. Additionally, robotic procedures are less invasive than standard procedures, leading to a reduction in pain, faster recoveries and shortened hospital stays.

How will this impact you?

This is a great development! If you need surgery, you can search online to learn if surgeons use robotic assistance for your expected procedure. For example, search for “robotic assisted” and “knee replacement” to learn how surgeons use robots for knee replacements. If applicable, ask your doctor if he/she uses robotics. If your doctor doesn’t use robotics, ask him/her why. And if you have time, you might want to consider searching for a surgeon in your area who can perform your procedure with robotic assistance.

It’s important to note that for any kind of surgery, you should ask your surgeon for a complete list of potential risks and the likelihood of each risk. Additionally, unless there are extenuating circumstances, use a surgeon who has performed hundreds of procedures similar to yours. And ask about his/her success rate. Before any procedure, read these blog posts:

#9 Improved Heart Valve Replacement

photo of several doctors and nurses in operating room performing procedureProper functioning of the heart’s mitral and tricuspid valves are essential for proper blood flow. When problems arise, surgery is often required. Historically, these surgeries were complicated, dangerous and sometimes ineffective. Although improvements in techniques have made heart surgery less invasive and more effective, there are still risks.

Fortunately, surgeons can now access the valves via a catheter through the skin, a minimally invasive procedure called percutaneous surgery. This is a huge improvement over difficult open-heart surgery. Surgeons can use this game-changing innovation to repair and replace mitral and tricuspid valves. However, it’s important to note that percutaneous surgery for mitral valves is far more common than for tricuspid valves. Percutaneous surgery for tricuspid valves is relatively new – surgeons performed the first procedure in 2016 – but it will hopefully become mainstream over time.

How can this help you?

If you, or a loved one, need a valve replacement, ask your surgeon about minimally invasive percutaneous procedures. If your doctor suggests open-heart surgery as the only alternative, get a second opinion from another doctor, preferably at a different hospital.

#10 RNA-Based Therapies

photo of woman at a microscopeProteins, the large molecules created from sequences of RNA, are responsible for many tasks in the body. When these proteins are damaged and not functioning properly, health is compromised. Since these damaged proteins cause many genetic disorders, scientists are working to intercept a patient’s genetic abnormality before it becomes a non-functioning protein. These treatments are called RNA therapy. Right now, scientists are focusing on Huntington’s disease and other neurological disorders, as well as cancer. There is hope that RNA therapy will help with Alzheimer’s disease. This is a new field, with much promise.

What does this mean for you?

RNA therapy is in its early stages, but there is hope that it will help with many serious illnesses in the future.



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