Bioinstrumentation is the application of electronics and measurement techniques to develop devices used in diagnosis and treatment of disease. Computers are an essential part of bioinstrumentation, from the microprocessor in a single-purpose instrument used to do a variety of small tasks to the microcomputer needed to process the large amount of information in a medical imaging system.
Biomaterials include both living tissue and artificial materials used for implantation. Understanding the properties and behavior of living material is vital in the design of implant materials. The selection of an appropriate material to place in the human body may be one of the most difficult tasks faced by the biomedical engineer. Certain metal alloys, ceramics, polymers, and composites have been used as implantable materials. Biomaterials must be nontoxic, non-carcinogenic, chemically inert, stable, and
mechanically strong enough to withstand the repeated forces of a lifetime. Newer biomaterials even incorporate living cells in order to provide a true biological and mechanical match for the living tissue.
Biomechanics applies classical mechanics (statics, dynamics, fluids, solids, thermodynamics, and continuum mechanics) to biological or medical problems. It includes the study of motion, material deformation, flow within the body and in devices, and transport of chemical constituents across biological and synthetic media and membranes. Progress in biomechanics has led to the development of the artificial heart and heart valves, artificial joint replacements, as well as a better understanding of the function
of the heart and lung, blood vessels and capillaries, and bone, cartilage, intervertebral discs, ligaments and tendons of the musculoskeletal systems.
Cellular, Tissue and Genetic Engineering involve more recent attempts to attack biomedical problems at the microscopic level. These areas utilize the anatomy, biochemistry and mechanics of cellular and sub-cellular structures in order to understand disease processes and to be able to intervene at very specific sites. With these capabilities, miniature devices deliver compounds that can stimulate or inhibit cellular processes at precise target locations to promote healing or inhibit disease formation and progression.
Clinical Engineering is the application of technology to health care in hospitals. The clinical engineer is a member of the health care team along with physicians, nurses and other hospital staff. Clinical engineers are responsible for developing and maintaining computer databases of medical instrumentation and equipment records and for the purchase and use of sophisticated medical instruments. They may also work with physicians to adapt instrumentation to the specific needs of the physician and the hospital.
This often involves the interface of instruments with computer systems and customized software for instrument control and data acquisition and analysis. Clinical engineers are involved with the application of the latest technology to health care.
Medical Imaging combines knowledge of a unique physical phenomenon (sound, radiation, magnetism, etc.) with high speed electronic data processing, analysis and display to generate an image. Often, these images can be obtained with minimal or completely noninvasive procedures, making them less painful and more readily repeatable than invasive techniques.
Orthopaedic Bioengineering is the specialty where methods of engineering and computational mechanics have been applied for the understanding of the function of bones, joints and muscles, and for the design of artificial joint replacements. Orthopaedic bioengineers analyze the friction, lubrication and wear characteristics of natural and artificial joints; they perform stress analysis of the musculoskeletal system; and they develop artificial biomaterials (biologic and synthetic) for replacement of bones, cartilages,
ligaments, tendons, meniscus and intervertebral discs. They often perform gait and motion analyses for sports performance and patient outcome following surgical procedures. Orthopaedic bioengineers also pursue fundamental studies on cellular function, and mechano-signal transduction.
Rehabilitation Engineering is a growing specialty area of biomedical engineering. Rehabilitation engineers enhance the capabilities and improve the quality of life for individuals with physical and cognitive impairments. They are involved in prosthetics, the development of home, workplace and transportation modifications and the design of assistive technology that enhance seating and positioning, mobility, and communication. Rehabilitation engineers are also developing hardware and software computer adaptations and cognitive aids to assist people with cognitive difficulties.
Systems Physiology is the term used to describe that aspect of biomedical engineering in which engineering strategies, techniques and tools are used to gain a comprehensive and integrated understanding of the function of living organisms ranging from bacteria to humans. Computer modeling is used in the analysis of experimental data and in formulating mathematical descriptions of physiological events. In research, predictor models are used in designing new experiments to refine our knowledge. Living systems have highly regulated feedback control systems that can be examined with state-of-the-art techniques. Examples are the biochemistry of metabolism and the control of limb movements.