Biomedical Engineering In Practice
To see what Biomedical Engineers can produce:
Andy King talks about research that combines medical imaging with techniques from virtual reality to improve the safety and reliability of surgery:
Biomedical engineering improves medical practitioners’ ability to diagnose and to treat and here at King’s we see this happening every day. Read on to find out how the Biomedical Engineering Department is helping to improve Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanning technology.
Like an increasing number of people in the UK today, Chris has something wrong with his heart. He is experiencing chest pains and shortness of breath, so his doctor refers him for an MRI scan to find out what is wrong.
Developing cutting-edge hardware
Chris lies on a bed with a magnetic coil over his chest; the bed then moves into the MRI machine, which takes images of his heart. Just one example of the rapidly expanding kinds of hardware developed by biomedical engineers, the scanner allows clinicians to see inside Chris’ body in a non-invasive manner and to study his heart, and the special coils generate better images of the heart.
Chris holds his breath while he is being scanned and the radiographers adjust the scanner settings to get the best possible images. The images have been getting better and better, because biomedical engineers have been developing and improving image-acquisition techniques and software settings.
Forming a 3D image
Once the scan is complete, the MRI images of Chris’ heart are processed by a computer using software developed to translate the 2D image ‘slices’ into a 3D image by stacking the individual slices on top of one another. One example of such software is the edge-detection program, developed by biomedical engineers, which is used to identify the boundaries of the heart, creating a 3D ‘volume’.
Creating a model of the heart
This 3D volume, which is specific to Chris’ anatomy, provides a unique model to help understand what is wrong with his heart. By adding the laws of physics it can incorporate mechanical and biophysical information obtained from other scans and tests to show how the heart beats and how diseased areas of tissue affect the function of the heart. From this understanding, the model is used to determine outcomes of different possible treatments and finally to identify the best way to restore Chris’ health.
Imaging technology: Biomedical engineers develop special coils to generate better images of the heart.
Image acquisition: Biomedical engineers develop and improve image-acquisition techniques and scanner-software settings to get the best pictures.
Image processing: Biomedical engineers develop software to detect the boundaries of the heart and create a 3D volume.
Biophysical modelling: Biomedical engineers create functional models of the heart to show how diseased tissue affects function.