Cutting the Wires

Advances in wireless communication have had a profound effect in recent years, as cellular phones, WiFi Internet access, bluetooth devices, and other innovations in electronics have led to a more connected society. As we report in our article on page 1 of this issue, wireless communication will have a significant effect on healthcare in general, and neurological devices in particular, in the years ahead.

For manufacturers of neurotechnology products, wireless devices cut both ways—delivering stimulation parameters via telemetry to implanted electrodes, and sending back physiological and neurological data from the user to a clinician, monitoring station, or surgeon. As such, they help complete the closed-loop feedback system uniting neurosensing systems with neurostimulation devices that is becoming one of the key trends in neurotechnology.

Movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease represent a viable market for wireless monitoring, and Cleveland Medical Devices’ Kinesia product is well suited to delivering meaningful signals to clinicians, and ultimately to devices such as deep brain stimulation systems or drug infusion pumps that deliver therapeutic intervention synched to the symptomatic picture. Sleep disorders and other conditions that require ambulatory patient monitoring are another ripe area for wireless communication, and XLTEK, the Canadian neurosensing firm, has been one of the first firms to incorporate wireless telemetry into its products.

Looking down the road, we like the potential for applications of wireless control of implanted functional electrical stimulation devices. Joe Schulman, president of the Alfred Mann Foundation, believes it is possible to construct a lower extremity motor prosthesis that could restore locomotion to paralyzed individuals using a network of implanted BION stimulators. Because the BION device can transmit physiological data as well as receive telemetric command signals, the devices could conceivably work together in a coordinated fashion using wireless communication, much as muscles and mechanoreceptors work together in a healthy neuromuscular system.

Of course, wireless devices also offer neurotech manufacturers the capability of receiving real-time data about an implanted neurostimulator itself, including battery life, performance, and stability. Using this information, a clinician or patient could receive immediate notification of adverse events, impending failure, or altered performance.

As has been the case with consumer products, continuing increases in data rates and decreases in power consumption and size of components will broaden the range of wireless applications in neurotechnology devices. And that will help further connect individuals with neurological disorders with the rest of society.

James Cavuoto
Editor and Publisher



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