1847: Slide inductor
The history of Siemens medical technology dates back to 1844, when Werner von Siemens first used one of his inventions for medical purposes, treating his brother Friedrich’s toothache with the Volta inductor. A few years later, Siemens & Halske presented an improved version of the apparatus: The slide inductor, customized to meet the needs of electrotherapy with built-in voltage and current controls. The device was one of the first ever pieces of electromedical equipment, and enjoyed great commercial success the world over for decades.
Another milestone in the history of electromedicine was the Pantostat universal connection device, developed in 1910, offering a variety of therapeutic applications ranging from the four-cell galvanic bath to vibration massage. The Pantostat could also be used for diagnostic purposes, for example as an electricity source for headlamps and endoscopes. This versatility made the Pantostat a huge commercial success up to the 1970s.
1896: X-ray therapy
Soon after the discovery of X-rays, medical professionals began exploring their therapeutic potential and conducting the first therapeutic radiation trials. Around 1910, the first X-ray devices designed specifically for therapeutic purposes appeared on the market. Two distinct areas emerged: Superficial therapy and deep therapy.
The Grenz ray apparatus and the Dermopan, developed in 1931 and 1950 respectively, were two popular Siemens devices for superficial radiotherapy targeting the skin. They used soft X-rays with relatively low energy to treat skin diseases such as eczema or skin cancer.
Development work in the field of deep therapy initially focused on finding ways to irradiate deep-seated tumors at all. In order for X-rays to penetrate deep inside the body, extremely high voltages were needed. The Stabilivolt, developed by Siemens & Halske in 1922, catered to many of the requirements of deep therapy, and proved its worth over a number of years.
The Esha-Phonophor, the first hearing aid created by Siemens, was based on telephone technology. Even in 1913, functionality was not the sole priority in the development of hearing aids; design was important, too. After all, users wanted devices to be as small and inconspicuous as possible. A special Phonophor model was designed for ladies, in which the microphone and battery were housed in a purse.
The invention of subminiature tubes and crystal microphones in the 1940s revolutionized hearing aid technology. Recognizing the significance of these developments, Siemens introduced the pocket hearing aids Fortiphon and Phonophor Alpha to replace earlier models using carbon microphone technology.
In 1959, hearing aids made the transition from vest pocket to behind the ear. The first behind-the-ear system from Siemens was the Auriculette 326. Like previous models, the new hearing aids consisted of a microphone, amplifier, earpiece, and battery. However, the components had become so small and light that they could be comfortably worn in a shell positioned directly behind the ear. In 1966, Siemens achieved another breakthrough with the Siretta, the first commercially available in-the-ear system.
The Betatron electron accelerator was a key breakthrough in deep radiotherapy. The device employed a magnetic field to accelerate electrons around a circular path to close to the speed of light, allowing effective irradiation of deep-seated tumors for the first time. This technique was the precursor of modern radiotherapy.
Circular accelerators subsequently gave way to compact and lightweight linear accelerators, which accelerate electrons along a straight path. From 1974 to the 1990s, the Mevatron line offered by Siemens provided a comprehensive range of linear accelerators.
In 2004, Siemens released the Artiste linear accelerator, an integrated radio-oncology solution. Combining imaging and irradiation settings in a single system allowed clinicians to accurately determine the tumor’s position and shape as well as the appropriate dosage at all times before and during treatment, enabling rapid and precise therapy.
1958: Fully implantable cardiac pacemaker
For a heart struggling to keep the beat, pacemakers can make all the difference. The first pacemakers, developed in the early 1950s, were as big as a cathode ray tube television, and had to be pushed around by the patient like a shopping cart. Even as the devices became gradually smaller until they could be worn around the patient’s neck like a pendant, they were still directly connected to the heart via a cable passing through the patient’s skin, posing a high infection risk.
Modern pacemakers are around the size of a two-euro coin and implanted in the patient’s chest wall. A major part in their development was played by Swedish engineer Rune Elmqvist, the creator of the first ever fully implantable cardiac pacemaker. His invention was made possible by the development of miniature batteries and energy-saving transistors. On October 8, 1958, the first pacemaker model of this kind was implanted in Arne Larsson, a former player on the Swedish national hockey team, in a secret emergency operation. The invention would go on to save countless lives besides Larsson’s: In Germany alone, some 75,000 patients receive their first pacemaker each year.
2000 onward: Advanced therapies
The combination of modern imaging technology and software applications supports the entire therapeutic process, from initial diagnosis and treatment planning to surgery and aftercare. Whether in oncology, neurology, gynecology, or cardiology, the clinical solutions offered by Siemens Healthineers enhance treatment efficiency in countless areas of medicine. This trend is aptly illustrated by the following examples from the field of cardiology, where Siemens innovations have revolutionized the work of heart catheter laboratories time and again.
In 2003, in collaboration with the company Stereotaxis, Siemens pioneered magnetic navigation in interventional cardiology. This method enabled a physician equipped with a remote control and guided by precise imaging to navigate a catheter through the heart and coronary vessels to reach previously unattainable locations in the body.
In 2006, three-dimensional visualization of the left atrium based on real-time X-ray images was made possible for the first time by the software application syngo InSpace EP, an innovation supporting the diagnosis and treatment of cardiac arrhythmia. Atrial fibrillation in the left atrium can be treated by image-guided catheter ablation, reducing the risk of stroke associated with the condition.
From 2012, the complex procedure of positioning stents quickly and accurately was facilitated by the CLEARstent Live software, available for all Siemens angiography systems, which virtually freezes heart movements during a coronary intervention.
During complex operations such as those required to treat diseases of the heart muscle or valves, the cardiologist needs information about soft tissue and blood flow from ultrasound diagnostics, as well as detailed vascular imaging from angiography. In 2017, the software application syngo TrueFusion combined the benefits of these two imaging methods by showing ultrasound data superimposed on live fluoroscopy images, merging all the necessary information in a single image.