By Noralyn O. Dudt
About 18 years ago, I went through a medical procedure known as endoscopy. It's a procedure that enables a gastroenterologist to look into the inside of the stomach without making an incision using a medical device called endoscope. Endoscopy is derived from the Greek words "endon", which means 'in or within' and scope which means to 'see'. An endoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing and is inserted into the body through the mouth. The tiny video camera on its tip enables doctors to view the internal parts of the stomach and the esophagus. As I was burping more than the normal, the gastroenterologist wanted to check if my sphincter had become loose. A sphincter is a ring of muscle at the junction of the esophagus and the stomach whose function is to prevent reflux of food and acid from the stomach into the esophagus. If the sphincter does not close properly, food and liquid can move backward into the esophagus and cause heartburn and other symptoms known as gastroesophageal disease (GERD). This medical procedure lasts only an hour and the patient can walk out of the doctor's clinic as soon as his sedation wears off.
Though the endoscope is no longer the "cutting edge" device—in comparing with the latest cutting edge—it had gone through many improvements and evolutions in the past 15 years: the bronchoscope was designed to be narrow enough to view, aspirate, or remove specimens from airway and branches. An endoscopic technique called arthroscope is used to diagnose and treat joint, ligament, and tendon disorders.
Moreover, Upper GI (gastrointestinal) endoscopy can be used to identify many other diseases such as ulcers, cancer, inflammation or swelling, precancerous abnormalities such as Barrett's esophagus, and celiac disease.
Further down the line is the Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) which is a procedure used to diagnose and treat problems in the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, and pancreas. It combines X-ray and the use of an endoscope—a long, flexible, lighted tube. It offers an effective, minimally invasive approach to treatment for people with gallbladder and pancreatic duct stones, duct strictures, bile duct leaks after gallbladder removal, and benign and malignant diseases of the pancreas.
With new technology revolutionizing modern medicine, patients no longer need to fear getting "under the knife." In disease prevention, treatment, and diagnosis, as well as in individualized health care, cutting edge technologies of today and the future include robotics, organ and tissue engineering, genomic testing, and wearable medical devices. Minimally invasive procedures using these latest technologies take patients from unbearable pain to pain-free in a single day.
An amazing innovation which is gene therapy could treat blindness. Photoreceptor cells, which lie along the retina, sometimes die due to faulty genes. This common cause of blindness can be treated by injecting fluid to lift a layer of cells and, after DNA is added, healthy cells are encouraged to grow and the rest of the cells are kept from dying. This and other gene therapy treatments are an encouraging branch of biomedical studies.
And there are those biomedical vests that can show heart-related problem spots. The device uses 250 electrodes to detect extra heartbeats and other heart dysfunctions. It's particularly helpful because it helps doctors pinpoint where heart problems are without the need for an invasive treatment. Without this vest, in many cases, wires have to be placed inside the heart.
In addition to those described, physicians can now know what's going on with a patient without physically being close, thanks to remote patient monitoring ( RPM). Several benefits to RPM include better patient outcomes, faster response time, and significant cost reductions over time. In fact, RPM goes hand in hand with telemedicine in reducing the need for patient travel and mitigating everyone's exposure to infectious ailments in the waiting room of a doctor’s office.
Thanks to technological inventions, medical tools have been enabling surgeons to operate without incisions in major procedures that can be performed on an outpatient basis. Because there's no cutting, there's less chance of the patient getting an infection, guaranteeing a quicker recovery.
There are other cutting-edge devices and ideas out there that are too numerous to mention. Not only can they save lives but they can also enable us to live longer and provide us a better quality of life. Governments throughout the world need to make sure that their populations have access to these wonderful inventions.
Noralyn Onto Dudt, a City of Batac-born and bred, currently resides in the Washington DC area where she had worked with research doctors for several decades before she retired 4 years ago.
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