Thursday, June 13, 2013

Surgery for the future - enhancing function !

Typically surgery , has always been about correcting anatomical problems. If you broke a bone , the doctor joined it for you; if you had a tumour, he cut it out; and if you had an abscess , he drained it. In the future , surgery will become much more exciting , because rather than focus on fixing problems, clever surgeons and biomedical scientists will create procedures which will enhance function in normal people.

Thus, for example , functional neurosurgery will allow normal people to improve their memory while phonic surgery on the vocal cords will allow people who have a good voice to make it even better because of surgical intervention. This is a very tempting concept , because people prefer shortcuts and even though everyone understands that it's possible to improve your memory by studying harder; and that you can improve your voice by taking speech classes and practicing , this is not something which most people are willing to do because they don’t want to invest so much effort . If the surgeon can offer a safe and convenient shortcut which works , lots of people will be willing to pay for this.

There’s lots of money in this approach – and in one sense, this is a natural evolution. For example , when pharmaceuticals were first discovered , they were used to treat the sick. If someone had malaria , you treated them with antimalarials . Now, however, we use pharmaceuticals in order to enhance lifestyle quality , so we use drugs to improve people’s sexual performance or to make them happier.

In the past , psychiatrists would only concentrate on people with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. Today, they're working on what they can do to make people happier ! The focus is moving from treating illness to enhancing health

We can learn a lot from plastic surgeons . Their original focus was on fixing surgically correctable lesions such as cleft lip and burns. Today, most plastic surgery is aesthetic, and is done on people who are normal but want to look better, which is why they are willing to subject themselves to the surgeon’s knife.

This is quite a logical progression. Thus, rather than merely replace worn out joints, orthopedic surgeons will develop procedures to enhance joint function - for example , by inventing procedures which improve the way tendons work , using carbon implants .

This makes a lot of sense for medical devise manufacturers as well because they can now address the need of a much larger population of possible customers !  This is an exciting time to be a surgeon !

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