Minimally invasive orthopaedic surgery has a promising future with strong support of Taiwanese industriesDec 21, 2022

"BIO+ICT" is a new medical feature in Taiwan, which has the opportunity to turn Taiwan's biotechnology and medical industry around and create another pillar to bolster Taiwan's economy. Taiwan's medical devices industry has also recently received good news, as the world's first “Multi-Vertebrae Real-Time Positioning Surgery Aid System” released by the Metal Industries Research and Development Center (MIRDC) and Taiwanese industry has won two international awards. The biotechnology and ICT industries work together to strengthen the ecological chain of Taiwan's minimally invasive spinal surgery assistance system to compete in the international market.

General Director of Biomedical Technology and Device Research Laboratories at ITRI, Mr. Chii-Wan Lin, believes that with the global trend of an ageing population, precision minimally invasive surgery is increasingly important as it can prevent secondary injuries to patients and shorten the recovery period. However, minimally invasive surgical instruments entering the body must be accompanied by other tools such as lenses and navigation software in order to read the exact position, which is a worthwhile investment for non-traditional medical material providers.

In particular, the ageing society has led to an increase in demand for orthopaedic materials and related surgeries. MIRDC also unveiled the world's first "Multi-Vertebrae Real-Time Positioning Surgery Aid System" at the Smart Medical Technology 2022 exhibition and recently received two awards at the 2022 Global Top 100 Inventions (R&D 100) and the German Red Dot Product Design Award (Red Dot).

The system is mainly integrated with a Taiwan-made mechanical arm, and integrates key technologies such as optical 3D composite positioning to reduce the positioning markers and multi-point intraoperative tracing through the multi-segment image navigation system technology, enabling timely correction of the position of each vertebral segment during surgery with an accuracy rate of 94%. It also improves the penetration rate of the system in minimally invasive spine surgery.

MIRDC has already disclosed its first generation prototype, which has been tested with a success rate of 98%, and is planning to enter clinical human trials in 2023.

Besides, MIRDC has also signed a memorandum of cooperation with Taiwan's medical software companies, such as EPED and INTAITechnology, as well as orthopedic material companies, such as United Orthopedics and Aplus Biotechnology, in the hope of forming a national team to pool the technical capabilities of Taiwan's medical doctors and ICT companies to strengthen the industrial ecological chain of Taiwan's minimally invasive spinal surgery assistance system and help Taiwan's medical material industry compete in the international market.

MIRDC's Acting CEO, Mr. Chi-lung Lin, is also optimistic that with the growth of the elderly population, the demand for medical treatment is increasing.

According to MIRDC, as the world enters an ageing society, the demand for orthopaedic medical materials is increasing year on year. The global market value of orthopaedic materials is estimated to reach US$58.08 billion in 2025, with products such as spinal navigation systems and surgical robots growing the fastest, expected to reach US$13.38 billion by 2025.

In recent years, Taiwan's medical materials industry has been actively implementing ICT technology for research and development, with a production value of NT$133.7 billion in 2021. However, the main products are mostly medical materials for home use, including blood glucose meters, contact lenses, electric mobility scooters, and low- and mid-range consumables for hospitals, but high-end medical equipment for hospitals is still mainly imported.

As per Lin, the combinition of clinical needs and ICT industry technology to develop intelligent medical technologies and products to achieve the goal of human-centered medical care, especially in the current global development of personal precision medicine is imperative.

It is worth noting that in recent years, BIO+ICT has gradually become a wave, coupled with the relaxation of relevant regulations, not only the medical industry has been solidly entrenched in recent years, but the technology industry has also been active in taking up positions.