Top Medical Innovations for 2020 – Part 1

Health care is a rapidly evolving field. There is a constant stream of new developments changing the way doctors diagnose and treat patients. Wondering what innovations are on the horizon? Every year, Cleveland Clinic assembles a panel of 80 doctors and scientists to determine the top 10 medical innovations for 2020. According to the report, they expect that the innovations not yet approved in the US will soon gain approval. What do they consider the top medical innovations for 2020? Read below to find out!

In order of importance, here are the top 5 of Cleveland Clinic’s list of Top 10 Medical Innovations for 2020 (read this post for items 6-10):

1. Dual-acting osteoporosis drug

photo xray of broken boneIn osteoporosis, bones become weak and brittle, which increases the risk of fractures. Experts estimate that over 200 million people in the world have osteoporosis. Moreover, the International Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that worldwide, 1 in 3 women over the age of 50 years, and 1 in 5 men will experience fractures related to osteoporosis in their lifetime.

But it’s not only broken bones that patients should worry about. For example, hip fractures from osteoporosis increase the risk of death for 10 years after the fracture. And both major and minor fractures increase the risk of death, particularly for patients over 75. Additionally, fractures of the hip and vertebrae significantly impact patient quality of life. Finally, there is a significant economic burden from these broken bones.

The new development.

The FDA recently approved a new drug, called romosozumab, that promises to decrease the risk of fractures.

How will this impact you?

If you have osteoporosis, ask your doctor if romosozumab is a good option for you.

2. Expanded use of minimally invasive mitral valve surgery

In mitral valve disease, the mitral valve, located between the left heart chambers (left atrium and left ventricle), doesn’t work properly, potentially leading to heart muscle damage. In some patients, surgery to repair or replace the valve is recommended.

What’s the new development?

photo man with chest pain - trust your doctor's recommendationsA new treatment using a minimally invasive valve repair device is now more widely available. Surgeons perform the minimally invasive surgery through a small incision of 2-4 inches, instead of the 6-8 inch incision required in traditional procedures.

The benefits of these minimally invasive surgeries include:

  • Reduced pain and blood loss.
  • Decreased risk of infection.
  • Shorter hospital stays.
  • Faster recovery and return to work.
  • Less scarring and improved appearance after surgery.
What can you do?

If you need mitral valve surgery, ask your doctor if he/she recommends a minimally invasive procedure. And if your doctor isn’t comfortable with this newer procedure, or doesn’t think you are a good candidate, get a second opinion.

No. 3. Tafamidis – the first medication approved for transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy (ATTR-CM)

older man chest pain - Top Medical Innovations for 2020Never heard of this condition? You’re not alone! However, ATTR-CM is a serious, underdiagnosed condition that can be fatal. It’s characterized by deposits of proteins in the walls of the left ventricle, which is the main pumping chamber of the heart. The proteins cause the heart walls to stiffen, resulting in an inability of the left ventricle to properly relax and fill with blood; and to adequately squeeze to pump blood out of the heart.

What’s the development?

On May 3, 2019, the US FDA approved tafamidis for ATTR-CM in adults. This is first treatment found to lower the risk of death from ATTR-CM.

How can this help you?

If you’ve been diagnosed with ATTR-CM, talk to your doctor about tafamidis. Additionally, if you have a heart condition that has not improved, ask your doctor if the cause could be ATTR-CM – it’s often undiagnosed!

4. Therapy for mitigation of peanut allergies

photo peanuts in shellsPeanut allergies are common and dangerous. Peanuts are the food most likely to cause anaphylaxis* and death. And peanut allergies are the 2nd most common food allergy in children – with more than 1 out of 50 children is allergic to peanuts. Moreover, more than 1 in 20 one-year-olds suffer from this allergy. This number has tripled since 2001. Additionally, more than 1 in 200 adults are allergic to peanuts.

*Anaphylaxis is a severe, whole-body allergic reaction, which causes the airways to tighten and other symptoms.

The new development.

A new oral immunotherapy medication, called Palforzia, allows children with peanut allergies to slowly develop a tolerance to peanuts by gradually exposing children to increasing doses of peanut protein. However, the goal of the treatment is not to completely eliminate a peanut allergy. Instead, the goal is to reduce the risk of severe reactions in case of accidental exposures.

What can you do?

If your child has a peanut allergy, talk to your doctor about Palforzia.

5. Closed-loop spinal cord stimulation

photo of person holding back in pain -Top Medical Innovations for 2020 Chronic pain develops when the body’s response to an injury lasts longer than it should. Since this type of pain no longer protects the body from an injury, it becomes harmful on its own. Certainly, chronic pain has a significant, negative impact on a person’s life. For instance, pain sufferers can have difficulty working. Furthermore, pain can make daily living tasks difficult, such as dressing, bathing and eating. Also, chronic pain can cause depression, weight gain and a reliance on pain medications.

What causes chronic pain?

Healthy nerves send signals to and from the brain constantly, helping prevent injury by alerting a person that something is wrong and triggering the person to appropriately react. However, when nerves are damaged, they can send pain signals to the brain even when there is no injury, leading to chronic pain. Nerves can be damaged by a trauma, medical conditions and medications.

Spinal cord stimulators can help.

Surgically implanted spinal cord stimulation devices treat chronic pain by disrupting erroneous nerve signals. The devices deliver mild electrical stimulation to nerves along the spinal column, altering nerve activity in an effort to minimize the sensation of pain reaching the brain. First used to treat pain in 1967, the FDA approved the use of the devices in 1989 to relieve chronic pain from nerve damage in the trunk, arms or legs.

What’s the new development?

A new model includes “closed-loop stimulation to create better communication between the device and spinal cord, providing better pain relief”.

Can this development help you?

If you suffer from chronic pain, ask your doctor about spinal cord stimulators, including the latest model with the closed-loop stimulation. And do your research before making a decision.

My two cents…

Because I’m a chronic back pain sufferer, I have researched these devices and spoken with patients and medical providers. And what I found did not convince me to have a device implanted. Firstly, these devices don’t help all patients, although doctors can remove them as needed. Moreover, a scientific review of studies on the devices, published in 2015, identifies many potential issues with these devices. That being said, I know people who find the device quite helpful for relieving pain.

My final thought on these top medical innovations.

Although Cleveland Clinic considers these innovations to be promising, I strongly recommend you always research options before making treatment decisions.

Don’t forget to read next week’s post for innovations 6-10!



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