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Innovative Medical Devices of the Past Century

by Zewski Corporation

Medical devices are vital to the diagnosis and monitoring of patients. They come in all formats, from simplistic like a tongue depressor to more comprehensive such as an MRI machine. As technology continues to advance, so do the devices that healthcare professionals use in the care of their patients. What are the most innovative tools to enter the medical marketplace in the last century?

Electroencephalography (EEG)

Before the advent of the electroencephalography machine by Hans Berger in 1929, it was impossible for physicians to obtain a visual record of brain activity. The human EEG device is considered one of the most critical developments in clinical neurology. It has allowed medical science to get a better understanding of seizures, syncope, movement disorders and migraine headaches.

Dialysis Machine

The first dialysis machine was built by Willem J. Kolff in 1943 utilizing sausage casings and a washing machine. Today, more than two million people globally rely on the modern version of the dialysis machine for the treatment of end-stage renal disease.


Each year, the automated external defibrillator saves 70 percent of people who go into cardiac arrest. Although defibrillators have been around for longer than a century, it wasn’t until 1947 that Claude Beck, a surgical professor at Case Western Reserve University, used one on “hearts that were too good to die,” saving the life of a 14-year-old boy with a heart defect. Modern end-user-friendly versions of this machine are available in most public buildings nowadays.

The Artificial Heart

The very first artificial heart wasn’t human, it was canine. Vladimir Demikhove successfully implanted it into a dog in 1937. It took another 15 years before a version became available for human patients.

The modern artificial heart comes in 13 different designs, but only one approved for medical use. Most of these products are temporary solutions used until a human heart becomes available.

Advanced Imaging

Two devices fall under this category: the Computed Tomography (CT) scan and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MFI). Both use different forms of technology to give medical professionals a look inside the body of their patients without making a single cut. The MRI and the CT scan both came into play in 1971 and are used widely today for diagnostic purposes.

The Insulin Pump

The insulin pump seems like a new development, but the first one appeared in 1963. Dr. Arnold Kadish created a pump that could fit into a backpack. The advancements made in the design of insulin pumps have made these devices both more wearable and smarter, and the technology is still growing. Eventually, there may be pumps that function as an artificial pancreas able to continuously monitor glucose levels and make instant adjustments.

The Bionic Eye

Also referred to as a visual prosthesis, the concept was first tested in 1967 based on research that dated back to 1799. It wasn’t until 2001 that a protocol provided proof of principle. The first-generation device gave back some vision to 16 people between 2002 and 2004. The design is still being improved in projects all over the world. New potential prosthetic devices include a microsystem-based implant, a miniature telescope and an artificial silicon retina.

As technology expands, there are likely to be more life-saving devices in the coming years and we are thankful for that. We're proud of the work we've done on medical devices over the years. That's our specialty, product design for the medical field, and we love the rewarding work we get to do.