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biomedical engineering[‚bī·ō′med·ə·kəl ‚en·jə′nir·iŋ]
An interdisciplinary field in which the principles, laws, and techniques of engineering, physics, chemistry, and other physical sciences are applied to facilitate progress in medicine, biology, and other life sciences. Biomedical engineering encompasses both engineering science and applied engineering in order to define and solve problems in medical research and clinical medicine for the improvement of health care. Biomedical engineers must have training in anatomy, physiology, and medicine, as well as in engineering.
A wide variety of instrumentation is available to the physician and surgeon to facilitate the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and other malfunctions of the body. Instrumentation has been developed to extend and improve the quality of life. A primary objective in the development of medical instrumentation is to obtain the required results with minimal invasion of the body. Responsibility for the correct installation, use, and maintenance of all medical instrumentation in the hospital is usually assigned to individuals with biomedical engineering training. This phase of biomedical engineering is termed clinical engineering, and often involves providing training for physicians, nurses, and other hospital personnel who operate the equipment. Another responsibility of the clinical engineer is to ensure that the instrumentation meets functional specifications at all times and poses no safety hazard to patients. In most hospitals, the clinical engineer supervises one or more biomedical engineering technicians in the repair and maintenance of the instrumentation.
The application of engineering principles and techniques has a significant impact on medical and biological research aimed at finding cures for a large number of diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and AIDS, and at providing the medical community with increased knowledge in almost all areas of physiology and biology. Biomedical engineers are involved in the development of instrumentation for nearly every aspect of medical and biological research, either as a part of a team with medical professionals or independently, in such varied fields as electrophysiology, biomechanics, fluid mechanics, microcirculation, and biochemistry. A number of fields, such as cellular engineering and tissue engineering, have evolved from this work.
A significant role for biomedical engineers in research is the development of mathematical models of physiological and biological systems. A mathematical model is a set of equations that are derived from physical and chemical laws and that describe a physiological or biological function. Modeling can be done at various physiological levels, from the cellular or microbiological level to that of a complete living organism, and can be of various degrees of complexity, depending on which kinds of functions they are intended to represent and how much of the natural function is essential for the purpose of the model. A major objective of biomedical engineering is to create models that more closely approximate the natural functions they represent and that satisfy as many of the conditions encountered in nature as possible. See Simulation
A highly important contribution of biomedical engineering is in the design and development of artificial organs and prosthetic devices which replace or enhance the function of missing, inoperative, or inadequate natural organs or body parts. A major goal in this area is to develop small, self-contained, implantable artificial organs that function as well as the natural organs, which they can permanently supersede.
The goal of rehabilitation engineering is to increase the quality of life for the disabled. One major part of this field is directed toward strengthening existing but weakened motor functions through use of special devices and procedures that control exercising of the muscles involved. Another part is devoted to enabling disabled persons to function better in the world and live more normal lives. Included in this area are devices to aid the blind and hearing-impaired. Human-factors engineering is utilized in modifying the home and workplace to accommodate the special needs of disabled persons. See Biomechanics, Human-factors engineering