What Is Biomedical Engineering?

Dentures, pacemakers, laser surgery, kidney dialysis and other life-saving devices and procedures are the products of the very exciting field known as biomedical engineering. As its name suggests, biomedical engineering applies the principles of engineering to develop diagnostic and therapeutic tools that would improve the state of medicine and healthcare. Biomedical engineers collaborate closely with medical professionals like doctors and therapists as well as scientists and researchers in coming up with solutions that would improve the diagnosis and treatment of disabilities and diseases.

A fairly new engineering specialization, biomedical engineering has evolved from being merely a part of an already existing area of study to being its own field. Bolstered by advancements in science and technology, biomedical engineering has contributed prostheses, medical devices and pharmaceutical drugs to the world. In its infancy, biomedically-engineered devices and equipment included such rudimentary inventions as wooden crutches that assist injured individuals who are unable to walk, splints to keep broken bones in place and very cumbersome devices known as ear trumpets that aid in hearing. As technology evolves and as medical science gleans a better understanding of the human body, medical devices become more sophisticated and advanced.

Some of the specific contributions of the field to medicine and healthcare include artificial limbs, dental implants and hearing aids. It has also prolonged and improved the quality of life of those suffering from diseases like diabetes and heart ailments by making pacemakers, insulin pumps and artificial organs. Therapeutic aids that improve a patient’s chances of survival from life-threatening diseases like kidney failure and cancer like kidney dialysis equipment and radiation therapy as well as devices like transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) that give relief for pain have also been developed, thanks to biomedical engineering.

The field has also made the diagnosis of various illnesses more effective because of the advancements it has made on imaging technology. Ultrasound, x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are the results of advancements made in the field of biomedical engineering. One of the newest developments in the field has been the invention of wearable technologies that can provide insight into vital signs like your heart rate, temperature and blood pressure. Through these devices, important data are provided in real time that allow individuals to better monitor the state of their health while they are doing their daily activities.

Biomedical engineering has grown into such a vast field that it is now composed of different areas of specialization. Bioinstrumentation is the field that applies the principles and techniques of electronics and measurement to come up with equipment that can diagnose and treat disease. The area of biomaterials seeks to understand the properties of living tissues so that functional implants can be designed. Another growing field of biomedical engineering is that of rehabilitation engineering. The focus of this area lies in providing a better life for individuals with physical disabilities. Computer technology has become part and parcel of the new tools and devices developed in the field of biomedical engineering. This specialization is known as clinical engineering and the biomedical engineers working in this area focuses on the development and maintenance of hospital computer databases that record the medical instruments of the institution.

Career Spotlight: Biomedical Engineer

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