Identifying Trends and Quantifying Growth for Technological Innovation in Knee Arthroplasty: An Analysis of a Patent Database (1990 to 2020)
Abstract: Technological innovation is the key for surgical progress in knee arthroplasty and improvement in patient outcomes. Exploring patented technologies can help elucidate trends and growth for numerous innovative technologies. However, patent databases, which contain millions of patents, remain underused in arthroplasty research. Therefore, the present study aimed to: (1) quantify patent activity; (2) group patents related to similar technologies into well-defined clusters; and (3) compare growth between technologies in the field of knee arthroplasty over a 30-year period. An open-source international patent database was queried from January 1990 to January 2020 for all patents related to knee arthroplasty A search strategy identified 70,154 patents, of which 24,425 were unique and included analysis. Patents were grouped into 14 independent technology clusters using Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) codes. Patent activity was normalized via a validated formula adjusting for exponential growth. Compound annual growth rates (CAGR) were calculated (5-year, 10-year, and 30-year CAGR) and compared for each cluster. Overall yearly patent activity increased by 2,023%, from 104 patents in 1990 to 2,208 patents in 2020. The largest technology clusters were “drugs” (n = 5,347; 23.8%), “components” (n = 4,343; 19.0%), “instruments” (n = 3,130; 13.7%), and “materials” (n = 2,378; 10.4%). The fastest growing technologies with their 5-year CAGR were: “user interfaces for surgical systems” (58.1%); “robotics” (28.6%); “modularity” (21.1%); “navigation” (15.7%); and “computer modeling” (12.5%). Since 1990, overall patent growth rate has been greatest for “computer modeling” (8.4%), “robotics” (8.0%), “navigation” (7.9%), and “patient-specific instrumentation” (6.4%). Most patents in knee arthroplasty for the last 30 years have focused on drugs, components, instruments, and materials. Recent exponential growth was mainly observed for user interfaces for surgical systems, robotics, modularity, navigation, and computer-assisted technologies. Innovation theory would suggest that these rapidly growing technologies are experiencing high innovation output, increased resource investments, growing adoption by providers, and significant clinical impact. Periodic monitoring of technological innovation via patent databases can be useful to establish trends and future directions in the field of knee arthroplasty.
Keywords: technological innovation / patents / knee arthroplasty / knee / orthopaedics / research / technology
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