Mar 072011

Dr. Stephen Oesterle, Medtronic’s senior vice president for medicine and technology, made an announcement about an interesting new device at works at the world’s largest medical device company – the tiny injectable pacemaker. Judging by the provided photo of the prototype, its width is ~2 mm and length is ~6 mm, allowing it to be implanted into the heart via a small catheter rather than an invasive surgery. Medtronic’s R&D department has already developed an ASIC chip featuring most of the components—an oscillator to generate current, a capacitor to store and rapidly dispense charge, memory to store data, and a data telemetry system. “What we don’t have that is fundamental to a pacemaker is a way to power the chip,” said Oesterle. It is not clear whether Medtronic will try to develop this crucial piece of technology in-house or to buy the patent rights from others. Considering that the device would have to deliver tens of mA of current (perhaps more), the power telemetry development might be not an easy task. Additional challenges facing the device developers include deep device placement and limited space for the antenna given the small device size. For these reasons, it might not be feasible to use the existing RF inductive-coupling power telemetry technologies developed for superficially-placed neurostimulation devices, such as the RF-BIONTM Implantable Microstimulator from AMF and the SAINTTM from MicroTransponder Inc. Other possibilities do exist, such as the resonant antennas operating at microwave frequencies, but these technologies have a long way to go before they are applied for any biomedical applications. I guess, we will be more certain about the Medtronic’s plans once they start hiring the microwave antenna engineers.

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