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The Eleven Most Implanted Medical Devices In America

Implanted medical devices are one of the most profitable businesses of the U.S. healthcare industry.

24/7 Wall St. has examined National Health Survey data, multiple professional physician services, peer-reviewed journals, and SEC filings to complete a list of the most frequently implanted medical devices today. While many of these are life saving, controversy swirls around several others.

Many of the devices implanted are medically necessary and do their jobs extending lives and improving quality of life, the 24/7 Wall St. research shows. Some products, such as artificial knees may even be under-utilized. Others, like implantable cardio defibrillators, may be over-utilized. What is certain in most of the cases reviewed is that the effectiveness of these devices is not as well researched or understood as their widespread use may imply.

11. Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators

Cardiac arrhythmia, or improper electric signaling in the heart, occurs in millions of people a year. While the vast majority are benign, a select few usually in patients with a history of heart attack or heart failure can be fatal if not treated promptly. Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) are devices that monitor and treat these rhythms when they are detected by sending a large jolt of electricity to the heart, and basically pressing the reset button. Newer models can also function as pacemakers, combining two devices into one. Complications of ICDs are similar to their pacemaker siblings: 1%-2% rates of infection and up to a 4% rate of lead failure. While these devices are major life-saving technology, the U.S. Department of Justice has been investigating the industry due to the widespread practice of implanting the devices too soon after a major cardiac event.

10. Artificial Hips

As people age and gain weight the wear and tear on their joints builds up. In particular, more than 20 million Americans suffer from degenerative osteoarthritis, which is the leading cause of chronic disability in the U.S. As one of three major weight bearing joints in the leg (the others being knees and ankles), hips are put under a lot of stress over a lifetime. This stress commonly leads to the wearing down of cartilage and the painful friction of bone rubbing against bone. Hip replacement can lead to a decrease in pain and an increase in mobility in over 90% of recipients. But when friction or a faulty manufacturing process wears down the replaced joint at a faster rate than anticipated, replacement of the hip can be necessary earlier than expected. These failures, in addition to requiring a new hip replacement, can leave behind fragments that can become focal points for infections, cause nerve and vessel damage, and possibly even lead to death.

9. Heart Pacemakers

As with ICDs, pacemakers are used to treat abnormal rhythms in the heart. While ICDs treat otherwise fatal rhythms, pacemakers are used when the heartís internal clock is not maintaining a fast enough pace. Pacemakers override the aberrant signals in the heart by passing small jolts of electricity to multiple parts of the heart muscle, providing its own rhythm. Modern pacemakers will increase with exercise and decrease with rest to meet the bodyís minute to minute needs. Complications of the surgery include a 1%-2% rate of either shortor long-term infection and, more importantly, up to a 4% rate of lead malfunction.

8. Breast Implants

Breast augmentation with implants is the most frequently performed plastic surgery procedure in the U.S., beating out nose jobs, eyelid surgery, and liposuction by a significant margin. Due to the increased public criticism, the FDA has since closely monitored breast implants in the U.S.

7. Spine Screws, Rods, and Artificial Discs (Spinal Fusion Hardware)

Spinal fusion surgeries are performed for a variety of back problems, mainly for pain and weakness. The surgery essentially fuses two or more vertebrae with the help of hardware such as screws and rods. An alternative in a number of these cases and a simpler procedure overall, decompressive surgery removes part of the bone to free a trapped nerve. Patients of these fusion surgeries are most likely to have the least amount of benefit.

6. IUDs (Intra-Uterine Devices)

IUDs are extremely popular worldwide and are the preferred method of contraception for almost 25% of women in the rest of the developed world. The most serious complications associated with the devices today are uterine perforation, which occurs in 0.1% of patients, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which occurs in 0.2% to 0.9% of patients. Two forms of IUDs are available in the U.S., with an approximately even split of market share: Paragard, a generic copper-coated IUD offered by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd; and Mirena, a progesterone-releasing IUD offered by Bayer HealthCare.






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