What is today's state-of-the-art for power sources? Which technologies result in a long service life for implants?
1. The power consumption of the therapy, influenced by the treatment modes and the efficiency of the treatment (such as how precisely the electrode reaches the point of maximum effectiveness)
2. The primary consumption of the electronics in the active state, which can vary significantly depending on how the components are designed
3. The implant's secondary power consumption, by optimizing its activity with smart software that controls the unit so power is actually consumed only when a measurement or a therapeutic activity is necessary
4. The capacity of the power source in relation to consumption; in addition, whether a limited-life battery or a rechargeable cell is used also influences the service life.
Examples include cochlear implants for people with impaired hearing, devices which must be supplied with power and signals through the skin and are designed for an implant service life up to 115 years. Pacemakers and neurostimulators achieve service lives of up to 15 years. In contrast, several implanted pump applications whose designs require higher power consumption must be replaced after just roughly two to four years. Even so, depending on the patient's situation, there can still be a significant gain in quality of life.
What trends do you expect for the next few years as regards electronics?
Fink: Advances in implant miniaturization, with the goal of minimizing patient stress during the implantation procedure by reducing the severity and duration of the operation. At the same time, shrinking the size of implants in order to increase the patient's level of comfort over the long term. The final assembly of active implants will continue to be automated to a large degree in order to address increased pressure on costs as well as to improve precise control of processes and reproducibility.