The Future of Orthopedics is Smart Implants |

The Future of Orthopedics is Smart Implants

If an implant could talk…  what would a health care provider want to know to better treat the patient?

On a dark cold morning in February 2021 the Orthopedic staff at Cleveland Clinic receives a worrisome Instant Message from one of their total hip patients, Samantha Ingram. However, this IM was not written by Samantha but rather by Samantha’s hip replacement.  The message from her hip implant explains that a local Staph infection has just started and provides details on the location and bacteria level present. The office nurse contacts Samantha to bring her into the office even though she insists that she is fine. She arrives that afternoon.  She receives oral medication and a minor procedure that locally treats the infection and then she is sent home.  Samantha has avoided pain, implant loosening and a possible revision operation. The smart implant has done its job.

In the future, I believe most joint replacements will contain embedded sensors that allow the health care system to detect early problems, proactively treat them, and provide better care for the patient. These implant sensors will measure loads, temperature, motion, enzymes, bacteria levels, pH, particulates, etc. Surprizingly as we sit here in 2012, the technology actually exists for implantable sensors such as this. However the big five Ortho companies are not on board yet. They have not yet invested in the development and regulatory processes for smart implants. This will change. The question that the Ortho companies must address is “If an implant could talk…  what would a health care provider want to know to better treat the patient?”
Looking forward, I believe that the more meaningful orthopedic uses for smart implants will be among these eight applications.

8 Applications for Smart Implants

  1. Infection detection – See OrthoSensor

  2. Early Dislocation detection – hips

  3. Bone Ingrowth measurement or Spine Fusion Detection – See Smart Hip , OrthoData

  4. Fracture Healing measurement – trauma

  5. Particulate counting for early detection of osteolysis – hips

  6. Performance, load bearing and ROM data collection – See OrthoSensor, e-knee , TracPatch

  7. Controlled and local drug delivery (antibiotics, analgesics, growth factors) long after surgery

  8. Implant and Patient ID data with an RFID tag – See Ortho-Tag

Your thoughts?


4 responses to The Future of Orthopedics is Smart Implants

  1. Ian Revie September 16th, 2010 at 2:54 am

    Very interesting developments and thoughts. I am interested and have a long history involved in the evolution of orthopaedics navigation and would be interested to understand further your thoughts about RFID being linked to navigation – is this possible?


  2. Dan Sands September 21st, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    RFID technology today is very small, can be attached and embedded in metal objects, autoclaved and yet can still be read from several feet away. This was something that was not possible 5 years ago. RFID provides the mechanism to associate or link devices moving in or out of a read zone. Product life-cycle information can be tracked such as device usage, procedure type and this information can be transferred into the patients electronic medical record.


  3. Michael Berger May 7th, 2012 at 8:39 am

    The technologies that are being developed by Ortho-tag are pioneering a new frontier in healthcare by integrating state-of-the-art advancements in biosensor technology and information technology with orthopaedics.

    Ortho-tag utilizes Transcutaneous Near Field Communication (TNFC), a proprietary technology that enables secure transmission between an Ortho-tag and Ortho-tag Touch Probe so that surgeons and associated healthcare providers can gain immediate access directly from the patient to vital information about that patient’s implanted orthopaedic device and the surrounding tissue environment.


  4. David Sixsmith December 12th, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    An interesting article on biosensor technology but what if I could hijack the sensor and send data back to hospital DICOM system with incorrect information to ensure the patient is treated with drugs or a therapy that isn’t required? Or could I use the data stored within the sensor to manipulate a patients medical history to ensure a patients mortgage, financial credit ratings or medical insurance details are manipulated. Although we perform cyber security risk assessments can we really be sure that this technology won’t be hijacked in the future?