By Dr. Michael Roizen, M.D. an Dr. Mehmet Oz, M.D.
This is a time of incredible progress in medical science’s understanding of how to diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions. Here are our top four life-changing medical innovations that could revolutionize health care in 2015; they earned spots on the Cleveland Clinic’s ninth annual list of Top 10 Medical Innovations.
The stroke ambulance
Getting to the emergency room fast after a stroke is critically important because that’s where the treatment is … or used to be, anyway. It’s estimated that two million brain nerve cells die in each minute that passes without treatment after a “brain attack.”
A high-tech ambulance used by some hospitals in Sweden and the United States can save your life and the quality of your life. Personnel on board include a paramedic, critical care nurse and scanning technologist so the ER comes straight to the stroke patient. A special portable computed tomography (CT) scanner takes brain images within two minutes. They’re then sent via a 4G broadband video link to hospital neurologists and neuro-radiologists for analysis and diagnosis. If an ischemic stroke (blood clot) is detected, the stroke ambulance health care workers can administer a clot-busting drug, tissue-type plasminogen activator (t-PA). The sooner t-PA is given after a stroke, the more effective it is. With t-PA treatment arriving sooner, more stroke survivors are likely to retain or regain full function of their mind and body. The average time for t-PA administration in cities without mobile stroke care is 90 minutes; with these mobile centers, it’s under 35 minutes. That’s over 100 million brain cells saved, a lot of brain function preserved and disability avoided.
One-shot radiation for early-stage breast cancer
Deaths from breast cancer have dropped 20 percent in recent years thanks to early detection and treatments. This year, over 63,000 American women will be diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer.
Treatment for early-stage cancer may be a lumpectomy (removal of a portion of the affected breast) plus three to six weeks of radiation therapy, five days a week. Unfortunately, that long treatment schedule can be a hardship for women who live far from a cancer center. Many drop out because getting there is just too difficult.
Now, one-dose intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) could change all that. Delivered during surgery (after the cancer is removed), this treatment focuses radiation on surrounding tissue where risk of cancer’s return is highest. It’s takes 30 minutes. Research shows it’s just as effective as long-course radiation for blocking recurrence of early-stage breast cancer.
A wireless pacemaker
Pacemaker technology has barely changed since 1958, with a silver-dollar-sized pulse generator implanted below the collarbone sending signals via wires called leads to the heart itself. Trouble is, leads can wear out.
A tiny, wireless pacemaker (smaller than a AAA battery) is less than 10 percent the size of a conventional pacemaker and can be implanted directly in the heart. An electrode senses the heart’s natural rhythm and adjusts electrical stimulation for healthy beats. A lithium battery powers the device for up to seven years, when a new one can be installed through a vein without invasive surgery. It was approved in Europe in 2013 and is awaiting Food and Drug Administration approval here; clinical trials are about to be completed.
The one-drop blood test
New blood-test procedures and testing technology allow docs to get info from a drop of blood drawn from your fingertip.
Similar to the instant blood-sugar checks, this new technology can run 30 different tests from a single droplet of blood, at a price that’s a fraction of what a lab may now charge. The tests are currently offered at a few Walgreens drugstores and health centers in California and Arizona. Services are set to expand soon.
Other innovations that earned spots on the Cleveland Clinic’s Top 10 Medical Innovations list include a dengue fever vaccine, new cholesterol and heart-failure drugs and better treatments for advanced cancers.