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Bioengineering Overview - Preparation - Day In The Life - Specialty Areas - Earnings - Employment - Career Path Forecast - Major Advances -
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Specialty Areas
By combining biology and medicine with engineering, biomedical engineers develop devices and procedures that solve medical and health-related problems. Many do research, along with life scientists, chemists, and medical scientists, to develop and evaluate systems and products for use in the fields of biology and health, such as artificial organs, prostheses (artificial devices that replace missing body parts), instrumentation, medical information systems, and health management and care delivery systems.

Some of the well established specialty areas within the field of biomedical engineering are bioinstrumentation, biomechanics, biomaterials, systems physiology, clinical engineering, and rehabilitation engineering.

Bioinstrumentation is the application of electronics and measurement principles and techniques to develop devices used in diagnosis and treatment of disease. Computers are becoming increasingly important in bioinstrumentation, from the microprocessor used to do a variety of small tasks in a single purpose instrument to the extensive computing power needed to process the large amount of information in a medical imaging system.

Biomechanics is mechanics applied to biological or medical problems. It includes the study of motion, of material deformation, of flow within the body and in devices, and transport of chemical constituents across biological and synthetic media and membranes. Efforts in biomechanics have developed the artificial heart and replacement heart valves, the artificial kidney, the artificial hip, as well as built a better understanding of the function of organs and musculoskeletal systems.

Biomaterials describes both living tissue and materials used for implantation. Understanding the properties of the living material is vital in the design of implant materials. The selection of an appropriate material to place in the human body may be one of the most difficult tasks faced by the biomedical engineer. Certain metal alloys, ceramics, polymers, and composites have been used as implantable materials. Biomaterials must be nontoxic, noncarcinogenic, chemically inert, stable, and mechanically strong enough to withstand the repeated forces of a lifetime.

Systems Physiology
Systems physiology is the term used to describe that aspect of biomedical engineering in which engineering strategies, techniques and tools are used to gain a comprehensive and integrated understanding of the function of living organisms ranging from bacteria to humans. Modeling is used in the analysis of experimental data and in formulating mathematical descriptions of physiological events. In research, models are used in designing new experiments to refine our knowledge. Living systems have highly regulated feedback control systems which can be examined in this way. Examples are the biochemistry of metabolism and the control of limb movements.

Clinical Engineering
Clinical engineering is the application of technology for health care in hospitals. The clinical engineer is a member of the health care team along with physicians, nurses and other hospital staff. Clinical engineers are responsible for developing and maintaining computer databases of medical instrumentation and equipment records and for the purchase and use of sophisticated medical instruments. They may also work with physicians on projects to adapt instrumentation to the specific needs of the physician and the hospital. This often involves the interface of instruments with computer systems and customized software for instrument control and data analysis. Clinical engineers feel the excitement of applying the latest technology to health care.

Rehabilitation Engineering
Rehabilitation engineering is a new and growing specialty area of biomedical engineering. Rehabilitation engineers expand capabilities and improve the quality of life for individuals with physical impairments. Because the products of their labor are so personal, often developed for particular individuals or small groups, the rehabilitation engineer often works directly with the disabled individual.

These specialty areas frequently depend on each other. Often the bioengineer, or biomedical engineer, who works in an applied field will use knowledge gathered by bioengineers working in more basic areas. For example, the design of an artificial hip is greatly aided by a biomechanical study of the hip. The forces which are applied to the hip can be considered in the design and material selection for the prosthesis. Similarly, the design of systems to electrically stimulate paralyzed muscle to move in a controlled way uses knowledge of the behavior of the human musculoskeletal system. The selection of appropriate materials used in these devices falls within the realm of the biomaterials engineer. These are examples of the interactions among the specialty areas of biomedical engineering.

Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Whitaker Foundation

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