A College-Level Overview of Biomedical Instrumentation


By Andrew G. Webb, Cambridge University Press, 2018, ISBN 978-1-10- 711313-8, 323 pages, $US90.

This text (one of the 13 books currently available in the Cambridge Texts in Biomedical Engineering series) is aimed at late sophomore- or early junior-level students, “with a basic level of understanding of electrical circuits and signal processing.” Some background in anatomy, the author writes, “would be useful.”

Acknowledging J.G. Webster’s Medical Instrumentation: Application and Design as well as his edited Encyclopedia of Medical Devices and Instrumentation, Principles of Biomedical Instrumentation consists of nine chapters providing a concise overview of the subject. The book is liberally illustrated, and each chapter concludes with a reference section and a series of problem assignments. A solutions manual is available for instructors using the text. Although the author is from The Netherlands, the text is reasonably generic and could be useful worldwide.

Chapter 1, “Biomedical Instrumentation and Devices,” provides an overview of the field, covering device classification, design, regulation, safety, and evaluation in a quick 17-page summary. Typical recall statistics for devices are given, failure modes and effects analysis are introduced, and international standards are referenced. Chapter 2, “Sensors and Transducers,” summarizes the role of microelectromechanical systems, electrodes, optical sensors, displacement sensors, pressure measurement devices, chemical sensors, and acoustic sensors. Here, one finds a particularly useful aspect of the text: the chemical sensor discussed is for glucose, the acoustic sensor for hearing aids, and the optical sensor for pulse oximeters. All three topics are expanded upon in later chapters, ensuring the ensuing discussions’ relevance to students using this text.

Chapter 3, “Signal Filtering and Amplification,” covers Bode plots, filter design, operational amplifiers, active filters, and noise. (Prior coursework here is recommended.) Special examples cover items relevant to pulse oximetry and glucose sensing. Chapter 4, “Data Acquisition and Signal Processing,” reviews sampling theory, noise, analog-to-digital processors, and post-acquisition data processing. Pulse oximetry and glucose meter data processing requirements are again used as examples.

Chapter 5, “Electrocardiography,” provides a nice introduction to electrocardiogram generation, capture, and analysis, with a few clinical examples. In like fashion, Chapter 6, “Electroencephalography,” offers an overview of EEG generation, capture, analysis (with an epilepsy example), and developing uses (brain-computer interfaces). Chapter 7, “Digital Hearing Aids,” discusses the normal human auditory system, hearing losses and causes, and the current methodology to partially remedy these losses.

Chapter 8, “Mobile Health, Wearable Health Technology, and Wireless Implanted Devices,” concisely overviews more recent monitoring devices. At a minimum, these include smartphones and related applications that enable functions such as motion sensing, pulse oximetry, and prescription reminders. Good coverage is also devoted to wireless implanted sensors, such as cardiac devices (pacemakers, defibrillators, and so on), glucose monitors, and a glaucoma sensor. The concluding Chapter 9, “Safety of Biomedical Instruments and Devices,” provides a useful discussion of microshock and macroshock and related device safety considerations. Biomaterials safety and testing are mentioned briefly, and a final example touches on the design of devices for use in MRI scanners.

Overall, this text offers a good overview of the described areas of biomedical instrumentation. It can form the basis for an approximately two-credit-hour course introduction to biomedical instrumentation. Additional topic areas, such as radiology (e.g., computed tomography scanning, picture processing and archiving, and isotope generation), clinical chemistry (analysis methods and developing smartphone uses), pharmacology (mass spectrometers), and others, could be included to cover more of the 1,700 or so types of devices and instruments listed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Furthermore, it would be valuable to add laboratory exercises to the text such that hands-on data acquisition relevant to ABET accreditation standards could be facilitated. Perhaps the next edition will include these items.