Top medical innovations address headache, diabetes, cancer

Oct 31 (Reuters) - The best medical innovations for next year include an almond-size device that's implanted in the mouth to relieve severe headaches and a hand-held scanner resembling a blow dryer that detects skin cancer, the Cleveland Clinic said on Wednesday.

The clinic's annual list of the best medical innovations for 2013 also includes new drugs to treat advanced prostate cancer and better mammography technology.

But leading the 2013 list for innovations is an old procedure that has a new use due to findings in a recent study. Physicians and researchers at the clinic voted weight-loss surgery as the top medical innovation, not for its effectiveness in reducing obesity, but for its ability to control Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease.

Over the years, bariatric surgeons noticed that the procedure would often rid obese patients of Type 2 diabetes, before they even left the hospital.

A study, led by Cleveland Clinic head of Bariatric and Metabolic Institute Dr. Philip Schauer, examining this phenomenon was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year.

`` Bariatric surgery has been around for a while. The reason it was chosen as the top innovation is because Medicare has broadened its indication for payment, and Medicaid in many states follows Medicare. A lot of the other (private) insurance companies started covering it, so it's much more accessible,'' Dr. Michael Roizen, the Cleveland Clinic's Chief Wellness Officer, said in an interview.

The criteria that insurers use to cover the surgery has been broadened because of its effectiveness in controlling Type 2 diabetes, he said.

The number of people affected by diabetes has tripled over the past 30 years to more than 20 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more than 90 percent of those cases are Type 2.

Doctors and researchers at the Cleveland Clinic voted for what they thought were the biggest, most significant innovations from the 250 ideas submitted from their colleagues at the clinic. Roizen said one of the main contributing factors to getting on the list is the number of people that the product or procedure can potentially help.

For that reason, a device that helps relieve headaches, the second most common ailment after the cold, was second on the clinic's list.

The miniaturized device -- invented at the Cleveland Clinic and spun off into a separate, private company called Autonomic Technologies Inc -- is implanted in the upper gum above the second molar to treat cluster headaches and migraine headaches. A lead tip of the implant is placed near specific nerves behind the bridge of the nose.

When the patient feels the headache coming on, a remote control device is placed on the outside of the cheek and the device delivers stimulation to those nerves, blocking headache pain.

The implant is available in Europe, but not in the United States. The company needs to do more studies to get FDA approval, said Dr. Frank Papay, Department Chair of Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, and consultant to Autonomic Technologies.

A hand-held device used to detect melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, was also on the list.

``Up until now, we've counted on our eyes,'' Dr. Allison Vidimos, Department Chair of Dermatology at the Cleveland Clinic, told Reuters. ``This device offers an objective look underneath the skin using a special spectrum of light.''

It compares moles and other things it finds on the patient's skin with a large database containing information on all types of melanoma. It also rates the risk.

``All dermatologists fear missing melanomas. The cure rate can be close to 100 percent if caught early,'' she said.

Vidimos said using the device, approved by FDA last year for use by trained dermatologists, helps prevent unnecessary biopsies.

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