Engineering 101

What is Bioengineering?


Bioengineering, also sometimes referred to as biomedical engineering, is a discipline that combines engineering expertise with medical needs for the enhancement in healthcare. Bioengineering integrates the engineering sciences with biomedical and clinical practice to improve human health on three levels.

  1. Advance the knowledge of living systems by applying engineering, biology, imaging and computational sciences as diagnostic tools.
  2. Improve the function of living systems by designing devices, systems, and constructs based on biological and non-biological components.
  3. Prevent the injury to living systems by building models, algorithms, and devices that may predict or guide behavior.

Over the years, major advances in bioengineering have included the development of artificial joints, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), pacemaker technology, arthroscopy, angioplasty, bioengineered skin, kidney dialysis, and the heart-lung machine.

Bioengineering Specialties 

By combining biology and medicine with engineering, biomedical engineers develop devices and procedures that solve medical and health-related problems. A person involved in the bioengineering field may choose to specialize in a specific area such as:

1. Bioinstrumentation 

Bioinstrumentation is the application of electronics, measurement principles and techniques to develop devices used in diagnosis and treatment of disease. The advanced technology in computing plays an important role in bioinstrumentation. One example of a bioinstrumentation device is a medical imaging system, a device that enables a medical specialist to view and analyze three-dimensional images captured from their patients. Enhanced computing technology and power are needed to process the large amount of information in a medical imaging system.

2. Biomechanics 

Biomechanics is the study of mechanical parameters which drive living-system motion. The biomechanics experts are those who contribute to human organ spare parts development, including artificial hearts and replacement heart valves, the artificial kidney and the artificial hip.

3. Clinical Engineering 

Clinical engineering is the application of technology for health care in hospitals. The clinical engineers work along with other medical teams to adapt instrumentation to the specific needs of the hospital. This often involves the interface of instruments with computer systems and customized software for instrument control and data analysis.

4. Rehabilitation Engineering 

Rehabilitation engineering is a new and growing specialty area of biomedical engineering. Rehabilitation engineering involves the design and application of devices to restore function to the physically disabled. Biomedical engineers contribute to every field of rehabilitation engineering: communication enhancement for hearing and speech, wheelchairs and wheeled mobility, prosthesis, technologies for orthopedics and spinal cord injury.

Something a bioengineer might deal with. (Image Credit: V-orel [CC BY-SA 4.0 (])

A Biomedical Engineer’s Tasks 

Some things that a biomedical engineer might do include:

  • Design and construct cardiac pacemakers, defibrillators, artificial kidneys, hearts, blood vessels, joints, arms, and legs.
  • Design computer systems to monitor patients during surgery or in intensive care.
  • Design instruments and devices for therapeutic uses, such as a laser system for eye surgery or a device for automated delivery of insulin.
  • Design clinical laboratories and other units within the hospital and healthcare delivery system that utilizes advanced technology.
  • Design, build and investigate medical imaging systems based on X-rays, magnetic fields (magnetic resonance imaging), ultrasound, or newer modalities.

Bioengineering is a discipline that integrates the engineering sciences with the life sciences to improve human health.

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