Zimmer Biomet this summer announced a so-called “smart” knee implant—a first of its kind to be cleared by the Food and Drug Administration.
A little over a month later in October, orthopedic surgeons in New York City completed the first total knee replacement with the device—a knee implant with an embedded sensor that counts the steps a patient takes, their walking speed and range of motion, so that the surgeon can monitor their progress from afar.
It hints at a future where a sensor implanted in the human body can detect—and maybe even predict—a patient not recovering as expected.
“Data is key,” said Dr. Peter Sculco, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hip and knee replacements at the Hospital for Special Surgery, and one of the surgeons who performed the surgery. “Now we have the ability to analyze big data in a much more rapid fashion.”
Zimmer Biomet’s smart knee product is just the start, analysts say.
It’s the first smart implant to be cleared by the FDA for a joint replacement surgery—but other medical devicemakers also have their eyes on the market.
“We’re just in the early innings of where this technology can go,” said Ryan Zimmerman, an analyst at BTIG who covers medical technology.
Devicemakers manufacturing implants for joint replacements want to continue to innovate and build on their products, as hospitals are exploring new ways to move more care to the home. An investment in smart implants also takes a page from developers of other medical technologies—like cardiac pacemakers and diabetes management tools—that have put data into the hands of patients, analysts say.
But medical device companies will have to prove the value of the innovative devices—and make sure they’re not adding unnecessary cost—to make a convincing pitch to customers.
Image Credit: Modern Healthcare