History of medical technology

Introduction: History of medical technology. The use of technology in medical practice did not begin until the 19th century. For a long time, medicine was based on describing the patient’s symptoms and not on experience, such as examining the patient’s body. 

It wasn’t until the 18th century that doctors began using manual techniques to diagnose patients and study cadavers. A wide range of new digital technologies in medicine and health appear poised to transform medical practice and challenge traditional notions of the patient-physician relationship. 

History of medical technology
History of medical technology

Various contributions from patients, physicians, biologists, and social scientists have warned that computer technologies somehow stand between physician and patient and that there is a fundamental human aspect of medicine that easily coexists with machines.

History of medical technology

Medical technologies are things, procedurally directed, that are applied against disease threats. Objectivity is the concrete dimension of technology.

A procedure is a focused and standardized plan that guides the use of objects according to defined objectives. Some medical technologies are more object-embedded.

 In these, the solid part is the principal active ingredient. X-rays, artificial kidneys, and penicillin are examples. Other technologies are more procedurally embedded. Their primary function is to manage facts, people, and other technologies.

Examples are medical records, hospitals, and surgical procedures. Indeed, the common synonym for the surgical procedure, operation, refers to related actions as parts of a chain.

Technologies must be distinguished from other means by which medicine takes action. Medical techniques are procedures mediated by human senses rather than objects. Examples are percussion, pulse sensing, and psychoanalysis. This approach to medical technology will be used in this entry.

1816 – Dr. René Lanèc invents a stethoscope to respect women: 

French physician René Lanèc is a true gentleman and an excellent engineer. When trying to diagnose a patient with heart disease, he used his basic knowledge of phonetics, rolled up a newspaper, and placed it on the patient’s chest.

This early stethoscope allowed Lennox to hear the patient’s heart sounds more clearly. It also allowed him to maintain his dignity, as the patient was a woman, and putting an ear to her bare chest was considered indecent.

1895 – William Röntgen “accidentally” discovered that X-rays were medically useful:

One day, German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen was playing with cathode tubes when he noticed a nearby fluorescent screen became invisible.

It is Illuminated by rays (which he coined “Röntgen rays” first) that can pass through various materials. However, it wasn’t until he photographed his wife’s hands using X-rays and a photographic plate that he realized their true practicality.

Fortunately, Frau Röntgen did not turn into the Hulk, but her left hand and wedding band became part of the first X-ray image of a human body part.

Technology and the Nineteenth Century

With physical theory firmly established, the nineteenth century became one of the great centuries for medicine, a time of significant progress and change driven largely by technological innovation.

The transformation of assessment through technology was one of the most important features of this century. The symbol and initiator of this change was a simple instrument used to amplify the transmission of sound, the stethoscope. Its transformative effect was as much due to the new relationship it created between doctors and patients as to the new information it provided.

Before the stethoscope, the evidence doctors obtained about disease came mostly from two sources: visual inspection of body movements and surfaces and patient-told stories of events, feelings, and sensations that accompanied the disease. It was this encounter with the patient’s life that was at once enlightening, disturbing and engaging for doctors.

The patient’s story provided important diagnostic evidence that often determined the physician’s decision. But physicians expressed concern over the validity of the evidence, which could not usually be verified.

Who can tell if a patient has tinnitus? The diagnosis was memory impairment. However, for all its obvious faults, the narrative of the patient’s journey through illness connected the doctor to the patient’s life.

Other simple technologies to extend the physician’s senses into the body, such as the eyepiece (1850), the clinical thermometer (1867), and the sphygmomanometer (1896), were introduced in the nineteenth century. By the end of the century, physicians had become diagnosticians, looking for physical clues to assess their patients’ problems.

Surgery was the nineteenth century’s only major bright spot in medical treatment. A radical change in surgeons’ ability to perform the dangerous and delicate task of cutting open the body was brought about by two separate inventions, one introduced in 1846 and the other in 1867.

By the beginning of the nineteenth century, pain had become so integral to surgical incisions that practitioners ignored numerous reports of the anesthetic effect produced by nitrous oxide and ether.

Attempts to minimize its presence have been addressed by surgical pain. Rapid surgery techniques were developed, with some surgeons able to separate organs in minutes.

Technologies of Twentieth-Century Medicine

The origins of the hospital lie in the military hospitals placed along the routes of the march of Roman soldiers. Early in the history of Christianity, hospitals were established to care for the homeless, travelers, orphans, the hungry, and the sick.

These various activities gradually split into separate institutions, including the hospital. It flourished during the medieval period but then declined as the Church’s support for its activities declined.

New technologies transformed the hospital clinically and socially. Surgery could no longer be performed at home on kitchen tables: it required a sterile environment, sterile equipment, and a staff of specialized nurses to care for patients undergoing more extensive procedures than in the past.

As the twentieth century began, diagnosing and treating non-surgical diseases could not be easily done at home with technology in a doctor’s bag. Diagnostic technology has now entered a new phase of development. Doctors’ simple sense-enhancing devices were being replaced by large and expensive machines that could be placed anywhere except in hospitals.

Another important innovation available by the mid-century was antibiotics. The mass production of penicillin in 1944 (discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928) ushered in the antibiotic era in medicine. Antibiotic drugs emerged from the laboratories of the pharmaceutical industry, finally breaking the grip of bacterial disease.

When penicillin was introduced, it was called the wonder drug. Given medication, a critically ill patient with meningitis or pneumonia will be home within a week. Not only was it fast and completely curative, but it was also safe and inexpensive. 

It was generally believed that penicillin would be the first innovation of a pharmaceutical revolution that would produce antibacterial drugs and drugs to effectively combat other human diseases. However, the symbol of medicine in the second half of the twentieth century would not be penicillin but a machine that debuted in the mid-1950s.

Final Words

Medical technologies, history shows, can be necessary. We can be forced to use the capabilities they provide us without considering whether they lead to the humane goals of medical care. The ancient Greeks understood this problem. They recognized that technological means should be used with clear, ethically informed goals.

Abnormal and escalating costs to the health care system that have followed the development of such technologies can be reduced as biomedical research develops comprehensive biological answers to problems such as organ failure. But in the 21st century, we have achieved few such complete technologies.

Also read: Medical Technology Benefits; Medical Laboratory Science Vs Medical Technology; What Is Medical Technology?

2 thoughts on “History of medical technology”

Comments are closed.