Biomedical engineering is a discipline concerned with the development and manufacture of prostheses, medical devices, diagnostic devices, drugs and other therapies as well as the application of engineering priciples to basic biological science problems.
It is a field that combines the expertise of engineering with medical needs for the progress of healthcare. It is more concerned with biological, safety and regulatory issues than other forms of engineering. It may be defined as "The application of engineering principles and techniques to the medical field".
Biomedical engineers usually require graduate degrees and sound knowledge of electronics engineering and human anatomy and physiology. The jobs are genrally high-paying. The number Biomedical engineers is expected to rise as modern medicine greatly improves. More and more universities are now improving their undergraduate biomedical engineering courses as interest in the field accelerates.
With the prior discovery of the X-ray, it was not until the late 1930s when researchers began to understand the effects of X-rays on tissues and the electrical properties of tissues. These discoveries lead to X-rays being able to visualize most organ systems, and ultimately it is what produced the modern array of medical imaging technologies as well as virtually eliminating the need for exploratory surgery. These imaging technologies opened the doors to the plethora of biomedical applications now available, effectively evolving the early devices such as crutches, platform shoes, wooden teeth, and the ever-changing instruments in the doctor’s bag into the more modern marvels, including pacemakers, the heart-lung machine, dialysis machines, diagnostic equipment, imaging technologies of every kind, and artificial organs, implants, and advanced prosthetics.
Most biomedical devices are either inherently safe, or have added devices and systems so that they can sense their failure and shut down into an unusable, thus very safe state. A typical, basic requirement is that no single failure should cause the therapy to become unsafe at any point during its life-cycle. See safety engineering for a discussion of the procedures used to design safe systems.
Many biomedical devices need to be sterilized. This creates a unique set of problems, since most sterilization techniques can cause damage to machinery and materials.
Most biomedical devices are completely tested. That is, every line of software is executed, or every possible setting is exercised and verified. Most devices are intentionally simplified in some way to make the testing process less expensive, yet accurate.
Regulatory issues are never far from the mind of a biomedical engineer. To satisfy regulatory issues, most biomedical systems must have documentation to show that they were managed, designed, built, tested, delivered and used using a planned, approved process. This is thought to increase the quality and safety of the therapy by reducing the likelihood that needed steps can be accidentally omitted.
In the United States, biomedical engineers may operate under two different regulatory frameworks. Clinical devices and technologies are generally governed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in a similar fashion to pharmaceuticals. Biomedical engineers may also develop devices and technologies for consumer use, such as physical therapy devices, which may be governed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Other countries typically have their own mechanisms for regulation. The European community maintains different standards from the U.S. and sometimes results in technologies being developed in either the U.S. or in Europe depending on the more favorable level of regulation. See US FDA 510(k) documentation process for the US government registry of biomedical devices.
- Bioengineering, also referred to as biological engineering
- Tissue engineering
- Medical imaging
- safety engineering
- Biomedical equipment technician
- Biomedical informatics
- Biomedical technology
- Department of Bioengineering, UC Berkeley
- Biomedical engineering at the University of Iowa
- Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering