Boomers' embrace of devices gives rise to new med-tech age

  • Article by: James Walsh and Jim Spencer , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 18, 2013 - 9:31 AM

Rapid growth of medical devices in middle-age patients renews lives, remakes industry and raises worries over long-term use.

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gemie1Sep. 14, 1310:06 PM

Due to an accident as a teenager, I had a knee replacement done at age 49 and a hip replacement done at 50. I was in a lot of pain during my 40's and I was walking like a 90 year old. Get the surgery done sooner than later, because as your joints are deteriorating, your muscles around the area are being negatively affected. I had both surgeries done at Mayo Clinic, Rochester. I did see Dr. Daniel Berry (he did not do my surgeries at Mayo) and he was not able to identify the problems. I ended up having to go to New York City to the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City (#1 in the country for orthopedics) and it took them five minutes to figure out the issues. Dr. Berry would most likely disagree with me, but working on your muscles before surgery and having both your surgeon and physical therapist working together can improve your prognosis. There are orthopedic surgeons at Mayo Clinic that prefer the patient do their own exercises and not have physical therapy. If you have a complicated case, get at least a couple of opinions and choose a doctor that hears you. Being able to communicate with your doctor is crucial. Be wary of doctors that are generic thinkers and think one size fits all. Be your own advocate and ask questions, such as all the issues related to your case, possible complications, type of appliances they are using and what to expect during the first year of recovery. Also make sure that there is medical support you for after surgery and during the 1st year of recovery.

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jdlellis1Sep. 15, 13 8:11 AM

The U.S. continues to lead the world in medical advance,nets (e.g. Devices, treatments, medicines, etc.), which is of course a good thing. Conversely, Obamacare will negatively turn the tide on this leadership role. While the President touts medical care as a right, the ability to design, manufacture and deliver these advanced treatments is limited. Example-1: 100 pacemakers available in the market, of the 10,000 people in need, who decides who gets the limited supply? Example-2: One defibulator available for two individuals. One is 25 years old, the other is 90 years old, who gets the unit or who decides who gets the unit? Not to say today's process is correct, but Obamacare opens up a new can of worms and not utopia!

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regionguySep. 15, 13 8:29 AM

A useful article, but the stats are at least partly misleading. Pacemakers have gone into children, young adults, and the middle-aged for decades, and the vast majority still go into the elderly. On the other hand, the discussion about the ortho segment is right on.

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niftyfiftiesSep. 15, 13 9:36 AM

I'm still slightly troubled that this mainly lifeSTYLE-related technology is available for some, while life-SAVING healthcare is still out of reach for many. I AM happy for those who are achieving a greater quality of life through these amazing devices, but we're still left with the prickly issue of making healthcare affordable and available for everyone.

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vegasgalSep. 15, 1310:09 AM

To replace a hip or knee on a person who destroyed it through sports, only to have them return to the same activity is like giving a new liver to an alcohlic who continues drinking. It is a waste of resources that can be better spent on those who will respect the gift they have been given. If you think you will automatically be a new one available when you trash this one, you are deceiving yourself. When you get 20 years out, the demand is going to far outstrip both available parts and surgeons. At least according to the Mayo surgeon I saw on a TPT program aimed at the boomer generation a couple of years ago. But we boomers have usually been pretty short sighted so the attitude doesn't suprise me.

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subhumanSep. 15, 13 6:16 PM

There is no point in this article being published, it turns into a med device versus obamacare debate instead of the benefits that these device provide.

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furguson11Sep. 16, 13 6:22 AM

"niftyfifties=I'm still slightly troubled that this mainly lifeSTYLE-related technology is available for some, while life-SAVING healthcare is still out of reach for many." Well, if the technology is available and affordable on the health care plan I paid for through a combination of direct pay, as part of my work compensation or that I support with the taxes I pay, I'll go for it without guilt. We'll be signing up 10's of thousands through MNsure soon and they'll have whatever opportunity their plan affords. I think that while this article focused on sports, the benefit of extending a productive working life will have good Return on Investment for the individual and society.

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explanthisSep. 16, 13 4:21 PM

No one wants to withhold implanted medical miracles from anyone. In this atmosphere of aggressive implant marketing, the mission of Failed Implant Device Alliance is to minimize the preventable patient harm percentage. To do this, there needs to be an independent registry of these devices that patients can access. Hospitals, surgeons and implant manufacturers must provide some standard warranty for implants (Consumers Union Safe Patient Project) so that this does not recur: My brother's implanted elbow failed after just 4 months. The elbow was implanted at the Mayo Clinic by the designer and manufactured by a Minnesota company. The doctor was not required to report the failure and subsequent revision surgery to the FDA as an adverse event because there was no fatality. The FDA does not have authority to recall failed implants. The FDA uses the perfunctory 510(k) process to clear products for market so they are not tested in humans. Questioning Mayo prompted a letter stating that only federally mandated emergency care would be provided though the prosthesis is no longer connected and he is in intense pain. Because of tort reform and FDA federal involvement harmed patients cannot adequately access their civil rights and to be compensated for long term care. They are burdened with the failure, though they trusted the industry with their lives. Because Medicare pays for a large percentage of these implants, taxpayers are also paying for the % of failed devices remaining on the market. Private gain: public pain.

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FrankLSep. 17, 1310:47 AM

vegasgal, I am truly puzzled by your comment. We are constantly bombarded with the message to stay active and get exercise. Thus if a new hip or knee allows a person to stay active, that benefits the person and society as whole by keeping them in the workforce or out of the nursing home.

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devicetechieSep. 18, 1312:22 PM

Great article! It's a simple, inescapable fact---all devices will eventually fail with wear and tear. If you get it at a young age, you will most likely outlive the device. Making devices more durable, while a laudable goal, may easily backfire. Witness the metal-on-metal hips. The situation is only going to get worse. We are living longer from medical advances while demanding a higher level of physical activity. Focusing purely on overall device longevity only muddles the issue. After implantation, what matters to you and your doctor is the integrity of THAT SPECIFIC DEVICE IN YOU, not the probabilities based on all such implanted devices. In other words, if you are unfortunate enough to encounter the problem, it is not a percentage. You got it 100%! What we need is no longer statistical projections (helpful in choosing and planning for the procedure) but personalized data at a low cost for post-procedure management. Hopefully, this will come in the near future. Sensurtec, Inc. is developing such device monitoring technologies to address specifically this problem. With a personalized "indicator", the remaining life of a device can be better prognosticated and problems can be managed earlier at substantially reduced costs and risks---a true win-win for all.

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