The most disruptive medical device innovations of all time


When it comes to disruptive medical device innovations, it’s easy to lose the perspective of history. Here are devices through history that definitely made a difference.

Chris Newmarker, Managing Editor and Danielle Kirsh, Assistant Editor

Whether you’re talking about surgical robotics or efforts to bring more value to healthcare, the word “disruptive” seems to get tossed around a lot these days.

So what is truly disruptive? And what is merely revolutionary or just innovative or simply hype?

Take stents as an example. The coronary stent market is already worth billions of dollars; Grand View Research projects it will nearly double to $15.2 billion by 2024. They’ve definitely changed the game because cardiologists in developed countries implant them into patients a lot. They’re a major product for medtech giants including Abbott, Boston Scientific and Medtronic.

But when researchers in the United Kingdom got around to doing a study with a sham control, the results late last year were unbelievable: Stents could be useless for most stable patients; the chest pain reduction they think they’re getting could be a placebo effect.

“Stents still have a place in care, but much less of one than we used to think,” Dr. Aaron E. Carroll, professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, recently wrote in a New York Times post.

If the jury is out on stents, is there anything these days that can be called truly disruptive? The editors at MassDevice and Medical Design & Outsourcing got together and came up with a list of devices through history that were truly game-changes.

Here are some medical devices that seem to be good candidates for a list of most disruptive medical device innovations of all time.


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  1. Little credit to Dr. Frederic Foley who in the early 1930 some 30 years prior to Dr. Thomas Fogarty placed a balloon on an indwelling urethtal catheter. Confident any work by Dr. Fogarty probably involved a review of a Foley catheter as he began working on his catheter. Actually CR Bard began distributing the Foley catheter in the 1930 as well. Although Paul Raiche with the David Rubber company was awarded the Patent for the device the World would only know the product as The Foley… over 200million are utilized annually.

    For a follow up article it would be interesting to track reimbursement policies and medical innovations. Since these policy can “push” innovation. At Poiesis this is why we launched the Duette catheter to reduce CAUTI events. CMS does not pay for never events so we designed a device that lowers rates 13:1 so far over the single balloon Foley. At $11,419 cost per infection it’s a game changer, only brought to the market due to reimbursement policies.

    Appreciate the look back, alway good to know the past.

    • Chris Newmarker says:

      That’s a good point about Dr. Foley, Greg. Fogarty’s work, it seems, was such a game-changer because he figured out how to make balloon catheter work in the vasculature. Surgeons not having to dig around looking for a blood clot — it was a big deal. … That’s interesting about how reimbursement policies enabled the launch of your catheter. Think we’ll see more innovation like this, since CMS is driving toward alternative payment models post-Obamacare?

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