Medical device industry giant Medtronic’s (NYSE:MDT) won a new U.S. patent for a passive method of powering implanted medical devices wirelessly from an external source, including possible applications in chairs, blankets or clothing.
The patent, titled "Passive charge of implantable medical device utilizing external power source and method," was granted on Tuesday, according to a filing with the United States Patent & Trademark Office.
The wireless recharge method may one day apply to a range of implantable medical devices, including drug infusion pumps, neurostimulators, cardioverters, cardiac pacemakers, defibrillators and cochlear implants, according to the filing.
Previous patents for externally charging implanted devices detail technologies that are "sometimes cumbersome and generally require the patient to take some overt step," the patent says.
"In some cases, this may require the patient to consciously remain in contact with or in the proximity of the external charging device," according to Medtronic. "Such charging techniques and equipment tend to limit the flexibility and/or mobility of the patient having an implanted medical device while the device is charging."
Existing patents describe machines shaped like a chair or bed that the patient must rest on while their implanted devices are powered up. Medtronic’s invention is "fully passive," in that it requires no diversion from a patient’s daily activities.
"These [previous] devices do not allow the patient to do normal daily activities without thinking about the charging process," according to the company. "This, of course, is an interruption in the daily activities of the patient and requires the patient to remember to charge the implanted medical devices at regular intervals to prevent the implanted medical device from becoming discharged."
Medtronic’s new invention would recharge implanted devices automatically when the devices are within proximity of the charging unit. The charger may operate through pressure, heat or metal sensors, among other technologies.
The medical device company envisions several possible forms for its charger, describing coils housed in memory foam, polar fleece blankets and chair pads and in clothing.
"The automatic activation provides a passive charging system that takes no overt action on the part of the patient. This literally frees the patient to go about normal daily activities without regard to charging the implanted medical device and provides the patient with a new sense of freedom."