Biomedical engineering is recognized as an autonomous discipline, although with numerous transversal elements, it can be divided into two main macro-specializations: industrial bioengineering and information bioengineering

Biomedical engineering is a branch of "hybrid" engineering, which combines different disciplines such as mechanics, electronics, chemistry, biology, anatomy, pathology, physics, mathematics, and mechanics.

To date, biomedical engineering is recognized as an autonomous discipline, albeit with numerous transversal elements, and can be divided into two main macro-specializations:

  • industrial bioengineering, more focused on the creation of surgical implants and devices, prostheses, and tissues, which can be compatible with the human body, in order to guarantee. Biochemical engineering is also part of industrial bioengineering, focused on the production, in the pharmaceutical sector, of antibiotics, vaccines, drugs, and supplements;
  • information bioengineering, more recently created, which includes all the processing activities of biomedical and health systems and models, starting from aggregate data sets.

What is biomedical engineering or bioengineering?

In summary, biomedical engineering represents the most concrete application of the principles and methods of traditional engineering in order to solve problems inherent in medicine and biology, designing models and medical devices capable of improving the quality of life of patients.

In fact, the "industrial engineering" sector includes: planning, design, development, construction management, estimation, testing, management, environmental impact assessment

  • of machines, industrial plants,
  • of plants for the production, transformation, and distribution of energy,
  • of industrial and technological systems and processes,
  • and, finally, of apparatuses and instruments for diagnostics and medical-surgical therapy.

What is biomedical engineering for?

Based on these premises, it can be said that biomedical engineering serves, in general, to design and develop medical systems and devices that improve the quality of life of patients.

More specifically, the biomedical engineer works within three macro-phases:

  • development: dedicated to the development of analytical models of particularly complex biological systems, with the aid of artificial models; methods of analysis and acquisition of signals coming from biological systems, in order to allow their coding; development of innovative materials that support cell proliferation, in order to allow the reconstruction of biological organs and tissues; biotechnologies and nanotechnologies;
  • design: dedicated to the creation of medical devices for diagnosis, therapy, and rehabilitation; artificial organs and prostheses; specific and dedicated information systems that take into account the specific needs of the healthcare and telemedicine environment;
  • organization: dedicated to the maintenance of biomedical equipment, to the efficient organization of hospital departments, and to monitoring the safety of medical devices, also in accordance with current legislation.

The fields of application of biomedical engineering, within these macro-phases, are many:

  • Diagnostic instrumentation: diagnostics include, for example, X-ray radiography, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), computed tomography emission of single-photon (SPECT), ultrasound.
  • Therapeutic instrumentation, aimed at creating devices to support therapeutic activity, such as dialyzers, lithotripters, pacemakers, artificial heart valves, cardioversion and defibrillators, artificial heart, heart-lung machine for extracorporeal circulation, neurostimulators, hearing aids, and others. Compared to diagnostic instrumentation, these devices require constant control and careful and minimally invasive design, which allows maintenance, replacement, and repair operations to be planned well in advance.
  • Rehabilitation instrumentation, which includes all the devices that modify physiological, physical, or mechanical parameters of the patients and which, therefore, must be designed in such a way as to allow perfect integration with the host's body and with its metabolic and mechanical processes ( or even allow its reabsorption into the body). Typical examples of rehabilitation instruments are prostheses, artificial organs, pneumatic machines for post-traumatic recovery.
  • Biomedical information technology: the application of information technology to healthcare allows, in the first place, to build computerized management models of health data (such as electronic medical records), which also take due account of the current legislation on the processing of sensitive personal data. Biomedical information technology is also dedicated to the study of the methods of transmission and indexing of images processed by medical devices (such as CT), to their conservation in dedicated servers (PACS), to the methods of image processing, and, finally, to the merger of the same, in order to allow doctors to obtain integrated information that facilitates diagnostics.
  • Biomechanics, a particularly vast sector encompassing the research and design of tissue devices, requires the possession of specific chemical, histological, molecular, and physiological knowledge.
  • Clinical Engineering, which deals with developing hospital equipment management systems, planning ordinary and extraordinary maintenance, planning replacement/purchase, and more.

What a biomedical engineer does

On the basis of what has been stated so far, it is possible to state, therefore, that the biomedical engineer takes care, in various capacities, of exploiting his own engineering knowledge and skills in order to simplify and accelerate the entire process of diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of the patient.

Operating within a particularly delicate context such as healthcare, the biomedical engineer is therefore asked to know how to combine particularly advanced technological knowledge with specific biomedical knowledge (based on the sector in which he will then work).

Within the public and private sector, the biomedical engineer can have different tasks, even very different from each other:

  • research, creation, testing, and quality control of medical devices, within multidisciplinary teams made up of engineers, scientists, chemists, technicians, clinicians, doctors, and health professionals;
  • collection of feedback from patients and therapists in order to make the necessary improvements to the devices produced;
  • study of the technical and economic feasibility of the products, and of their profitability (this activity requires the possession of economic-managerial skills);
  • sales support, through the correct definition of the technical specifications of the machinery;
  • installation, testing ordinary and extraordinary maintenance and repair of biomedical equipment made;
  • training of health personnel who have the task of using the equipment produced;
  • research and development, in order to contribute to the progress of the biomedical scientific community;

What studies to become a biomedical engineer

Since the biomedical engineer is required to possess heterogeneous knowledge, the dedicated study paths are focused on the acquisition of scientific (mathematics, computer science, physics, electrical engineering) and medical (physiology, anatomy, and other) skills.

The main objective of the specialist degrees in Biomedical Industrial Engineering is to allow the student to acquire not only technical skills, mainly through the performance of numerous practical exercises but also soft skills such as:

  • autonomy of judgment: the biomedical engineer must be able to solve, independently, design and management problems, also evaluate the cost and performance parameters of mechanical equipment, electronic / energy systems, and other industrial processes, according to a process of comparison cost/result that allows choosing the most efficient tools and systems, both from a technical and economic point of view;
  • ability to work in a team: since the biomedical engineer is typically required to work within teams made up of numerous professionals, it is essential that the same acquire the ability to work in a team;
  • communication skills, which allow the biomedical engineer to organize the results of their work within synthetic and easily understandable reports even by non-technical subjects;
  • ability to solve engineering problems of medium complexity.

Opportunità di carriera in ingegneria biomedica

Un ingegnere biomedico può lavorare in diversi contesti, sia privati ​​che pubblici: centri di ricerca, industrie farmaceutiche, robotica e aziende biomediche.

Si stima che, grazie alla proliferazione di sistemi innovativi sempre più interconnessi e dotati di componenti robotici, le opportunità di lavoro aumenteranno nei prossimi anni, creando nuovi posti di lavoro.

Ad oggi, le principali opportunità di lavoro sono in:

  • Industrie del settore biomedico/farmaceutico che producono e forniscono sistemi, apparecchiature e materiali per la prevenzione/diagnostica/cura/riabilitazione;
  • Industrie biomediche per progettare e produrre dispositivi impiantabili e portatili, protesi e organi artificiali;
  • Servizi di ingegneria biomedica (o ingegneria clinica/tecnologie biomediche) in strutture sanitarie pubbliche e private, nel mondo dello sport, dell'esercizio e della ricreazione;
  • Società di servizi per la gestione di apparecchiature e stabilimenti biomedicali.

Application examples

Hence, typical areas of intervention for a biomedical engineer are the making of clinical diagnostic tools, for example, tomography (computed tomography) and radiographic machines, prosthetics (hip joint, knee joint, etc.), and functional joints (heart valves, etc.). . , implementation of software systems for decision support and regulation in the clinical field, etc. In recent years, the number of clinical engineers has also spread, who deal with the management of the hospital equipment in question from the point of view of maintenance (managing technical interventions, maintenance contracts with repair companies, realizing a competent technical team of safety checks, routine maintenance and corrective maintenance interventions on equipment), economic (reporting For non-use of biomedical equipment, advice on tenders, management of public tenders for the renewal of machines ...).

What Is Biomedical Engineering? The Future of Bioengineering with Dr. Megan Palmer


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