Active implants: tiny, but big comfort for patients

Interview with Michael Fink, President Sales & Marketing at Micro Systems Technologies Management AG

The trend towards miniaturization is progressing in medical technology. This in turn also means that electronics must be adapted to size relations, for example of implants. Smaller structures and components are in demand as never before. Thus, the demands on the technology and production simultaneously grow.


Photo: Michael Fink

Michael Fink; © Micro Systems Technologies Management AG

In this interview, talked to Michal Fink, President Sales & Marketing at Micro Systems Technologies Management AG, about the increasing demands on implants and what this means for electronics.

Active implants are getting smaller and smaller these days. What does this ultimately mean for their electronics?

Michael Fink:
Available space must be used in an optimal manner. In other words, all active and passive components along with their power source must be packed into an extremely tiny space. For an electronics module, this means that increasingly smaller structures and components are being put to use even during the layout of the design and when routing signals. This, in turn, places extremely high demands on manufacturing technologies. Furthermore, technologies are now being used that allow the highest possible packaging density and level of functional integration. There has been an increase in the availability of highly sophisticated packaging processes such as Stacked-Die BGAs, through-silicon vias, etc. that guarantee the smallest possible requirement for space while achieving higher reliability. This has dramatically changed design options for implants as can already be seen in the current generation of "injectable pacemakers".
Photo: pacemaker

Modern pacemakers today are only a third compared to commercially available models; ©

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?

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.

Photo: Timo Roth; Copyright: B. Frommann

© B. Frommann

The interview was conducted by Timo Roth.