FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, June 06, 2005

Implanted Medical Devices Go Wireless

Imagine a doctor being able to remotely monitor a medical implant such as a pacemaker, and diagnose and even repair problems remotely, and without surgery. Or, what if that pacemaker could automatically call 911 if its owner were having a heart attack?

Zarlink Semiconductor, a Canadian-based microchip manufacturer, has taken the first step towards those visions with a chip that allows implants to establish wireless communication. The ultra-low-power chip can communicate with a nearby base station in the patient's home or in a hospital, which in turn keeps the doctor updated. The chip has a transmitting range of about six feet (meaning that multiple access points would need to be installed in a patient's home to keep him or her "online" at all times).

Theoretically, the chips could lead to an "in-body messaging system" in which multiple implant devices could communicate with one another and coordinate their functions. Or, external medical devices could be made aware of the implanted devices, and receive special instructions from them.

Source: Reuters