Table of Contents
Microchips are the most flexible electronic devices utilizing the most advanced technology in electronics. They provide a miniaturized form of electronic logic circuitry used in computing data, storing information, detecting and communicating information with others in various applications. With the advent of transistor technology, their size and computing power increases by the day. They can as well be referred to as integrated circuits combined together using transistor circuitry to realize specific computer logical functions. This capability makes them applicable in many areas of our daily lives. Medicine is a wide field in which microchips are used. Owing to the increasing need for monitoring, diagnosis and management of patient’s health, their applications are inevitable. Cutting edge technologies in medicine such as magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound, medical nebulizers, body implants and minimally invasive surgery use microchips as the control centers for the instrumentation devices. This paper discusses the various applications of microchips as vital components of medical electronics as well as the most recent developments in application of microchip technology.
Patient monitoring is vital especially in patients with chronic illnesses. This includes for instance those who suffer from diabetes or cardiac problems. In a diabetic case, the blood glucose levels are frequently measured to determine when to issue adrenaline or further medication to control the blood sugar levels. Obese patients often have high risk of suffering such problems including cardiac arrests or hypertension at least as per the medical standards of health care in diabetes report. To curb these problems, wearable devices which use sensors are given to the patients to collect data and send it to a monitoring resource center at intervals. This includes wearable devices such as watches, wristbands attached to mobile applications on smartphones. This system utilizes microchips in the sensors and smartphones to communicate data from the patient to a monitoring center. They are often programmed to measure maximums and alert the user or the control center doctors. Mobile apps such as the Samsung health app are well known examples of these applications that serve to complement this microchips work. Many small off the shelf electronic devices such as glucose meters, blood pressure meters, digital thermometers among others that are also preprogrammed to medical standards are easily available to patients in place of the analog methods as microchip applications in patient parameter measurement (Blackburn, 1981).
In nursing hospital beds, electrocardiography (ECG) signals are measured and used to monitor the patients’ health in real time. This is based on the concept of the electrical activity generated by the pulsating action of the heart which can be amplified using electronic amplifiers built into chips and processed using filter circuits for display on a liquid crystal display. The measurements are taken using sensors attached to the patient’s body and processed using microcontrollers. Similar signals of the body which can be measured include the electrooculography (EOG), a signal produced by the movement of the eyes. EOG signal has been used in medical research to determine potential eye problems with the patients because the signal varies with different illumination and exposure to different stimuli. The method used in recording this signal is also very similar to the recording of electroencephalogram (EEG). EEG is basically the brain wave patterns recorded following various physiological reactions of the brain as it is exposed to different forms of stimuli in real time. This has been scientifically proven to be used in diagnosis of mental problems and study of the brain by neurosurgeons (Bilitewski, 2009). The procedure involved in recording these vital body signals from ECG, EOG to EEG simply utilizes very low power electronics with inbuilt microcontrollers informing of chips.
The need for doctors to understand what is going on inside the patient’s body without interference was solved by the development of technologies such as x-rays. Modern X-ray equipment use computer microchip applications in a process often described as computed tomography (CT) sans. The use of microcontrollers and microprocessors in X-rays allows the radiographer to take a 360 degree image of the internal organs of the body including the spines (Gupta, S., Bag, S., Ganguly, K., Sarkar, I., & Biswas, P., 2015)). This noninvasive method uses computer logic controllers to achieve the necessary X-ray emissions to record the image from different angles while ensuring that the rays do not go to extreme lengths to harm the patients. More advancements in technology brought about the development of the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans which only relies on magnetic and radio waves to produce a more precise image of the internal organs. The use of feedback control mechanisms implemented via microcontrollers and integrated circuitry in microchips makes the MRI so precise that they can be able to scan in detail and produce a section of an internal body image just by sectioning. For instance, researchers are able to locate neurons in the brains using section scans of the human brain. This is only possible with the use of feedback control mechanisms that implement microchip technology.
While MRI scans help doctors in coming up with intelligent diagnosis results, the most impressive of them all is the use of microchips in minimally invasive body surgery as well as body implants. This greatly relates to the concept of bionic body parts or prosthetic robotics. First the use of microchips with inbuilt cameras allows surgeons to get a real time view of the internal body structure and determine where to cut without having to perform open body surgery. Moreover, they can implant certain electronic body implants such as pacemakers or artificial hearts which help them complete treatment that would otherwise produce adverse effects on the patient. All this is achieved in real time with monitors informed of sensors attached to the patients recording the various body parameters and raising alarm if a certain limit is crossed. This includes the blood pressure, body temperature, ECG among others. Many forms of drug delivery are available using microchip technology. Iontophoresis which is the delivery of specific drug doses using charged ions through the skin as a result of the electrical interaction activity of the device with the skin helps in efficient drug delivery. During surgery, anesthesia is offered using nebulizers (Allman, 2017). These are electronic microcontroller based means of delivering medical doses through the airway. It is a recommendable way of ensuring the patients are anesthetized continuously and quickly relieved when need be.
The main applications discussed include measuring body parameters, medical drug delivery, and medical diagnosis such as MRI and patient body support such as prosthetic limbs. Future applications of microchips in the medical industry most of which are currently under use include the development of prosthetics which seamlessly incorporate into the human body to replace the damaged body limbs. Many applications abound and further research underway will realize the implementation of miniaturized medical microchips that could for instance be implanted in the brain to help humans in information processing. Studies indicate it would be possible to connect the human brain to the internet using microchips as technology continues to advance.
- Allman, T. (2017). Cutting edge medical technology.
- Bilitewski, U. (2009). Microchip methods in diagnostics. New York: Humana.
- Blackburn, J. P. (1981). Microchips in medicine. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 74, 9, 644-5.
- Gupta, S., Bag, S., Ganguly, K., Sarkar, I., & Biswas, P. (2015). Advancements of medical electronics: Proceedings of the First International Conference, ICAME, 2015.