A microelectronic medical implant is defined as any type of medical device that incorporates electronic components and is incorporated inside the body to achieve a physiological response. This industry has come a long way since the first heart pacemakers appeared on the market in the 1970s.

Some products, such as neurostimulators, have evolved directly from the pacemaker. Other devices, such as implantable drug infusion pumps, would have been impossible without the development of increasingly sophisticated sensors-on-a-chip and the miniaturization of mechanical parts and circuitry.

Despite these advances, the product cycle in this industry lags considerably behind the available technology due to the lengthy nature of the clinical testing and approval process for new medical devices. As a result, new products often leapfrog their predecessors in terms of features and capabilities.

According to Business Communications Co. (Norwalk, CT), demand for microelectronic medical devices will grow 22 percent annually between now and the end of the decade. Indeed, the market will grow from $11.9 billion in 2004 to $32.3 billion in 2009.

Cardiac implants represent the largest market segment. Products such as pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators, cardiac resynchronization therapy devices, implantable loop recorders, and cardiac assist devices will grow 18.4 percent annually over the next 5 years.

Neurostimulators, currently the second largest product category, are projected to grow 39.6 percent annually between now and 2009. A neurostimulator is a device that sends precise electrical pulses to a part of the body, such as the brain or the stomach. It is used for suppressing seizures and treating patients with nervous system disorders, such as epilepsy or Parkinson's disease.