Engineering and technological advances have played a major role in advancing medical discoveries and efficiencies since the invention of X-rays in 1895. Technology development that has led to improvement in healthcare has won numerous Nobel prizes, and including such discoveries as magnetic resonance imaging and human genome sequencing.
Today there is urgent need to deliver good quality healthcare at affordable prices across the globe. Inventions that can be described as ground-breaking have been driven through mechanics, optics, electronics, and computing – and have integrated life sciences and engineering to work together to address major challenges in medicine. Engineering plays a critical role by enabling technologies that allow early detection, precise diagnostics, mobile health, and data-sharing – thus enabling more accurate and successful application of medicine worldwide.
This is possibly the field that has arisen most powerfully from the connection between medicine and engineering, and encompasses emerging subfields such as: tissue engineering; biomechanics; bio-mechatronics; and biomedical electronics. Bioengineers are accelerating innovation in the healthcare industry through the application of engineering principles within medicine and other health practices, thus enhancing and saving lives all around the world.
Innovation in this field not only helps prolong human lives, but is also helping to:
- detect diseases more quickly
- make life more accessible for those with disabilities
- further our understanding of ourselves and our bodies
- create prototypes of smart pills that can be used to diagnose and treat diseases
- monitor brain, blood and gastrointestinal tract activity with deep precision
- measure factors like temperature and pH levels, and deliver this information directly and instantly to doctors
- exactly replicate the typical behaviour of joints through the invention of biomechatronic leg joints, allowing amputees to walk in a fully functional way via complex connections to computers and sensors.
Medical Electronics Engineering
This is a growing field that contributes to advancing precision healthcare services. To examine and successful treat and cure disease, we need utmost accuracy to be provided by sophisticated and precise equipment. Medical Electronics Engineers design devices and measures that solve medical and health-related problems by combining knowledge of biology and medicine with engineering principles and practices.
A range of innovations will encompass:
- The design of devices used in various medical procedures such as imaging systems in the form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and devices for automating insulin injections or controlling body functions.
- Specialty areas including: biomaterials, biomechanics, medical imaging, rehabilitation engineering, and orthopaedic engineering.
- The maintenance, repair, and calibration of electronic medical instruments used in healthcare.
- Research with life scientists, chemists, and medical scientists, to develop and evaluate systems and products such as artificial organs, prostheses (artificial devices that replace missing body parts), instrumentation, medical information systems, health management and care delivery systems.
Medical Device Design Engineering
This is a challenging discipline responsible for the design and development of medical-technical systems, installations, and equipment such as pacemakers, MRI scanners, and
X-ray machines. These engineers monitor the whole manufacturing process from concept design to product implementation.
Design in this industry translates to the production of new tools, appliances, and instruments for use in a wide variety of medical and surgical processes. It includes implantable, wearable, and portable medical devices that can perform the functions of human organs, deliver medication, and monitor patient vitals in real time.
Broadly speaking, medical device design can be broken down into three categories: mechanical, electrical, and software. Many surgical instruments – such as scalpels, clamps, and retractors – are purely mechanical. Others include both electric and mechanical components, such as blood pressure monitors and electric bone saws.
This engineering sphere in healthcare involves several factors:
- required strength of the device, including its ability to withstand tension and torque
- construction material and bond types – materials will need to conform to the biomechanical requirements of the product, particularly in those devices that come into contact with patients
- electrical components that power mechanical movements, or monitor equipment such as defibrillators, electrocautery instruments, and iontophoretic drug delivery devices
- devices may also need to communicate unilaterally or bilaterally with a network or other devices, either wirelessly or via data ports
- software ranges from programs that handle simple device operation and data collection to complex systems incorporating algorithms in order to make critical decisions related to performance and function of the medical device.
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