OrthoMEMS: Measuring What Matters in Spine
In spine, measuring the pressure or load on damaged discs can be an important diagnostic, claims OrthoMEMS, every bit as valuable as current diagnostic techniques that look only at anatomical images. Indeed, OrthoeMEMS believes it has hit upon a fundamentally important new diagnostic tool for spine surgeons, one that offers an objective alternative to current subective diagnoses and that could do for spine and orthopedics what blood pressure management did for general medicine or EKGs for cardiology.
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OrthoSensor is trying to bring a data-driven revolution to orthopedics. It is building a three-legged platform, with intelligent instruments, intelligent implants, and analytics, all driven by sensor and other micro-electronics technology that feed back to surgeons vital data both intra- and post-operatively. Critical to its strategy: that improving outcomes in orthopedic surgery rests on developing better, data-rich surgical techniques, rather than novel implants made of new materials or design features.
Low back pain affects 80% of Americans and is a leading cause of disability. Yet even though soft tissues including muscles are the primary source of this pain, many physicians neglect them and focus instead on spinal vertebrae, discs and nerves. And in cases where muscles are considered, pinpointing the exact muscle that causes the pain is extremely difficult with today's conventional diagnostic methods. The muscle pain detection device from SPOC Inc. (Stevens Proof of Concept) is noninvasive technology that uses electrical stimulation to diagnose muscle pain in any part of the body. The company believes its use will prevent many unnecessary spine surgeries that result in failed back surgery syndrome, which can occur in as many as 50% of cases.
A recent article published in JAMA has spine surgeons crying foul. The article contends that spending on spine care increased 65% between 1997 and 2005--no big surprise given that healthc are spending in general increased by a similar amount over the same period. But an aggressive PR campaign behind the article seemed to single out surgery as a prime culprit in the rising costs and carried a clear message: that we're spending a lot on spine surgery and getting little in return. Moreover, claim surgeons, the article is just the latest in what they see as a larger campaing to cast doubts on the value of spine surgery and deny care to patients.