Traditional Recovery Methods Don’t Involve a Triccorder

Orthopedic surgeons have always monitored a patient’s recovery following a procedure. Unfortunately, technology hasn’t existed to allow a doctor to scan a patient with a Tricorder, like those in Star Trek. These usually involve follow-up visits to the orthopedic physician. During the visits the doctor evaluates a number of things including the type and amount of pain, range of motion, any numbness or tingling, the presence of weakness in the surgical area, medications you are taking, and the stability of any replaced joint. Of course some of the things that are evaluated during a follow-up visits can be subjective to the patient. Occasionally a problem that is not causing any symptoms, or is hidden, can slip by during the visit. Some recent technological advances are helping physicians to better evaluate a patient’s condition following an orthopedic surgery.

23rd Century Technology Helping Today

In the 23rd century, as imagined by Gene Rodenberry, a patient can lay down on a bed and all of their physical data is displayed to a doctor. While we aren’t there yet, two new implants are making that closer to reality. These implants make it easier for orthopedists to get important data concerning their patient’s recovery after a surgery. These implants are the Ortho-Tag system designed by the University of Pittsburgh and a prototype developed by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. The Ortho-tag system is a small RFID chip that is attached to an artificial joint which records the temperature and chemical balance of tissue near the joint, if there are any harmful organisms present, and the amount of weight and pressure placed on the implant.  It also can provide the surgeon data about the implant used including the manufacturer, model, materials, and date of manufacture. The new device from Rensselaer is also attached the implant and monitors much the same data as the Ortho-tag system but without the extra data about the specific implant. Both implants are incredibly small with the Ortho-Tag being a bit larger than the 4 millimeter by 400 micron Rensselaer implant. Either system is so small that they would most likely never be felt, but the data they provide can make a big impact on a patient’s recovery.

Looking For Dr. Leonard McCoy? You Don’t Need Him!

These two new implanted sensors are still in testing and not yet widely available, even to a futuristic doctor like the one’s in Star Trek. The orthopedic surgeons at the Illinois Bone and Joint and institute are closely monitoring the development of these new advances, as well as many others, which may soon better a patient’s outcome after surgery or even avoid surgery altogether. IBJI always strives to be on the cutting edge of orthopedic medicine, looking and researching new techniques and devices that can be utilized by our orthopedic physicians to provide the best patient care available in the Chicago area. Your best choice for any orthopedic surgery is the incredible doctors at IBJI. Make an appointment today and start down the road to a better quality of life.


This information is not intended to provide advise or treatment for a specific situation. Consult your physician and medical team for information and treatment plans on your specific condition(s).