Healthcare News & Insights

The 10 Greatest Medical Inventions of the last 50 years



Saving millions of lives around the world, preventing the spread of disease, allowing for more accurate diagnosis, and enabling better patient care are just some of the great benefits medical inventions and technologies have made on our world. But with new medical devices being introduced to the healthcare industry on a regular basis, it’s hard to keep track of all of the great innovations that have made the most significant impact on the lives of people all around the globe.

Here on Healthcare Business Tech, we are committed to bringing you the best news, updates, and studies related to the healthcare industry, and have conducted extensive research to compile this list of the 10 Greatest Medical Inventions of the Last 50 Years.

Considering how quickly medical technology evolves, it was not easy to come up with only 10 medical innovations that have made the most impact throughout the past 5 decades. However, the top 10 medical inventions that made our list range from life-saving drugs, like Highly Active Anti-retroviral Therapy (HAART) – which combines 3 different medications into 1 for a powerful prescription that can help extend the lives of patients with HIV/AIDS – to the artificial heart developed by Dr. Robert Jarvik, which replaces one of the most vital organs in the human body and has been saving lives since the early 1980’s. Even the “classic” medical testing devices have their place on our list; in fact, our top pick for MRI and CT technologies reflects what an incredible impact these two technologies have made on the medical industry since their inception in the late 1970’s.

We can’t deny that digital technologies have completely changed our lives, and the influence of these modern innovations on our personal and professional lives has made a significant mark on the medical industry. Many physicians and caregivers are now dedicated to using mobile medical technology, like tablets, smart phones, and other telecommunications devices to improve patient care in less time and without having to worry about geographical boundaries. Other digital applications, like in the newly-created Active Bionic Prosthesis (number 10 on our list), use modern technologies like microprocessors and Bluetooth to replicate natural functions in muscles and tendons. Patients using this medical invention can make adjustments to their “wearable robotics” right through their smart phones. Now that’s modern innovation!

Each of the 10 medical inventions acknowledged in our list is responsible for saving or improving the lives of patients around the world and have made their mark in medical history.

Here is an in-depth guide to the Health Exec News list of the Top 10 Best Medical Inventions of the Last 50 Years:

10. Active Bionic Prosthesis (Wearable Robotic Devices) Named as one of Mayo Clinic’s top medical technologies of 2012, this medical invention allows us to replicate the action of a person’s tendons and muscles to mimic natural human body motion. Battery-powered motors, microprocessors, and Bluetooth technology allow a person to adjust settings easily with a smart phone to ensure natural and consistent motion.

9. Health IT (Especially Mobile/Wireless Devices) Fortunately, today’s physicians no longer have to dig through piles of books and case studies to find the information they need to help a patient. Now they can look up information, access patient records, and view digital medical information in seconds, no matter where they are located. In fact, nearly 82% of physicians are projected to use smartphones in 2012.

8. Molecular Breast Imaging (MBI) This technology is making an impact in the fight against breast cancer. While mammography has been one of leading methods of detection for breast cancer for years, it has not been effective in detecting tumors in dense tissue. MBI is a safe and more powerful scan which serves as an encouraging alternative to mammography.

7. Modern Telehealth Telehealth is helping to significantly reduce the number of ER visits and hospitalizations around the world. By combining powerful telecommunications technology and healthcare advancements, patients and doctors can connect like never before without consideration for geographical boundaries. Telehealth supports more efficient diagnosis, treatment, and care management for patients by enabling doctors to share and access diagnostic images, video, and patient data.

6. Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART) This medication has been in development stages for years but has proven to be a powerful symptom reliever for patients suffering from HIV/AIDS. By using three medications to create one powerful combination, HAART has been clearly shown to delay progression to AIDS and prolong the life of infected patients anywhere from 4 to 12 years.

5. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) By non-invasively recording brain signals without the risks of radiation, this new technique tracks blood flow in the brain to monitor areas of activity. It can be used to monitor the growth of brain tumors, determine how well the brain is functioning after a stroke or diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, and find out where in the brain seizures are originating.

4. Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgeries Surgeries aided by robots were first introduced in the late 1980’s with laproscopic procedures and have been advancing ever since. Today’s “da Vinci” robot has treated more than 775,000 patients, and Instead of leaving patients with extensive scarring, these minimally-invasive surgeries leave only a few small marks on the body and allow for greater accuracy during surgery and less post-operation recovery time.

3. Laser Surgeries Laser surgeries were first used to correct vision, but today their use spans across many medical and cosmetic procedures. Whether used for corrective eye surgeries, cosmetic dermatology, or the removal of precancerous lesions, Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation (LASER) allows for accurate focus on very small areas of the body.

2. The Artificial Heart Robert Jarvik, MD is widely known as the inventor of the first successful permanent artificial heart, the Jarvik 7, first implanted in 1982. Since that time, this medical invention has helped save thousands of lives all over the world, as heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States and many other countries, leading cardiologists to continually search for ways to improve heart health. Currently, temporary and permanent artificial hearts are being used to help patients stay healthy while awaiting a heart transplant or to nurse their current hearts back to health.

1. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computerized Tomography (CT) These two medical technologies seem like standard procedures today, hinting at their significant impact on healthcare. The first whole-body MRI scanner was constructed 1977 by Dr. Damadian, which he dubbed the “Indomitable” and CT scans were developed by Sir Godfrey Hounsfield and Dr. Alan Cormack, for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1979.

By combining a series of images, or “slices”, taken from many different angles, doctors can examine detailed parts of the body individually or produce a 3-D image of that area, allowing them to quickly and accurately identify internal trauma or irregularities.