When I thought of heart disease and the treatment of heart disease, I thought of doctors and medications as the main components in treating and curing the disease. The more I researched and learned I found out that this is only part of the truth. Engineers are vital in the treatment of heart disease, from diagnostic tools, new treatments, and even medications.
There are many different types of heart disease one of which is coronary artery disease, the most common and deadliest in the United States. Engineers work together with physicians to treat and cure heart disease through research, as well as the design of medical treatments and diagnostic tools. Engineers develop tools that help doctors with their research. For example, engineers developed a heart pump simulator to help physicians study blood flow.
Doctors use different tools to diagnose heart disease including a chest x-ray, a stress test, a heart Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), an Electrocardiogram (EKG), plus more. A chest x-ray is used to look at the structures of the chest (bones, heart, lungs). A stress test is used to gather information on how the heart responds to exertion. A heart MRI provides information about the heart as it is beating, creating images of the heart throughout its pumping cycle. An EKG is used to further investigate symptoms related to heart problems. Engineers help make these machines and are constantly striving to improve them.
In addition to their work on the current devices used to identify and treat heart disease, many engineers everyday are finding better and more effective ways to cure heart disease. For example, two mechanical engineers from the University of Houston made a device to monitor fingertip temperature. Medical Practitioners will use this device to monitor the changes in blood flow and the impact on finger temperature to measure the risk for cardiovascular disease. Another example is a bioengineer and his team from the University of Colorado Denver developed a tool that helps cure congenital heart defects with only minor surgery. With this tool doctors can see a 3-D image of the patient’s heart and can then build the exact device needed to treat the patient’s heart problem. Physicians can even practice surgery on a copy of the patient’s 3-D heart.
As I learned more about all that goes into the tools and medications that doctors use to identify and treat heart disease, I’ve realized how important engineers are in the treatment of heart disease. Without engineers we would not be making the advancements in technology and treatment of heart disease. Engineers are getting us one step closer to taking heart disease off the list of the top five deadliest diseases in the world.
• Society of Women Engineers, UCLA
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