The Power Struggle in Neurotechnology
Manufacturers of implanted neurostimulation and neuromodulation devices have always been dependent on the power sources needed to operate their devices. They will become even more so as the range of applications for neurotechnology expands and competition heats up. A well designed and reliable battery can make the difference between a successful neurotechnology product and one that encounters problems.
Just as the number of neurostimulation vendors and product offerings is expanding, the market for neurotechnology batteries is likely to grow as well in coming years. As we cover in our vendor profile this month [see article, p7], Wilson Greatbatch Technologies Inc., a major player in the cardiac device battery market, has now entered the neurostimulation market. Also in this issue, we note that Advanced Neuromodulation Systems Inc. has secured a supply and development agreement with another battery vendor, EaglePicher Technologies [see article, p6].
These two vendors, along with Quallion LLC, already offer neurotechnology device manufacturers a wealth of options for powering their devices. We expect that competition, as well as excellence in engineering, will continue to produce improvements in lifetime, size, and performance specifications. One of the trends we find most encouraging is the availability of rechargeable batteries. This capability should help lessen the burden of additional surgeries for implanted device users, and may also mesh well with telemetric programming and control regimens.
Of course, battery technology is but one facet of the neurostimulation power situation. RF-powered devices, such as the original BION injectable stimulation system, will continue to have a place in neurostimulation, functional electrical stimulation, and therapeutic stimulation. As the neurotechnology industry develops more complex applications that involve multiple stimulation locations in nerve, brain, and muscle, the need for power transmission and distribution schemes will come to the forefront. Preliminary networking architectures advanced by the Alfred Mann Foundation and the Cleveland FES Center indicate that the industry is already thinking along these lines, although there is much more work to be done.
Finally, we continue to be intrigued by the possibility of passive leads and other electronic components activated by induction from magnetic stimulation systems. The combination of precisely targeted neurostimulation in combination with more systemic transcranial magnetic stimulation seems appealing.
The stimulation parameters and power requirements of implanted neuro devices are likely to be more diverse and robust than those in the cardiac market. We expect that the same will hold true for vendors of power supplies.
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