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TITLE Saving Lives: Amazing Medical Devices

LEVEL H - Higher Level


DEPARTMENT Centre for the Liberal Arts and Sciences

DESCRIPTION In this Unit we will explore the amazing technology that is found in modern hospitals. Many of us owe their health and some of us their lives to these ‘medical devices’ (which is the legal term for such technologies). Although these devices are often complex, the principles on which they function are not difficult to understand and mostly based on the basic physics learned at secondary level. In this Unit we will explore how these devices are used to diagnose disease, and also how they are used to cure diseases such as cancer. We will also look at the safety aspects of their manufacture and use and how we can look up information on the medical procedures which involve such devices – particularly when we need them to maintain our own health and well-being. We will discuss the perspective of patients when it comes to interaction with such technologies – what do we feel when we are confronted with such technologies particularly as patients - awe or fear?

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the Unit the student will be able to:
- Explain the relevance of medical devices in modern medicine and healthcare;
- Name the most commonly used devices in hospitals and explain their basic functioning and clinical use (from the humble thermometer to X-ray machines, CT and MRI scanners, ECG, ultrasound scanners, cancer treatment devices, physiotherapy devices etc);
- Define and explain the basic scientific terms used in the medical device literature;
- Discuss ethical issues with respect to medical devices and their use;
- Explain the risks to both patient and staff in the use of medical devices;
- Explain the principles of risk – benefit analysis as applied to medical devices;
- Explain the main EC directives which define and regulate the manufacture and use of medical devices;
- Explain the importance of proper use of medical devices used by the layman in the home;
- Appreciate patient perspectives with respect to medical devices.

2. Skills:

By the end of the Unit the student will be able to look up information on medical devices and their clinical use.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts (all freely downloadable):

- Medical Devices Agency. (2008.) Devices in Practice - a guide for health and social care professionals. View as an e-learning module and download the pdf version from (to be read thoroughly).
- ILO. Exposure to physical agents (for healthcare workers) (to be read thoroughly).
- EC. Directive 1993/42/EEC of 14 June 1993 concerning medical devices. Official Journal of the European Communities L 169, 12/07/1993, pp. 01 - 43. (free pdf available from EU site).
- Hunter T. B., & Taljanovic MS. (2003). Glossary of Medical Devices and Procedures - Abbreviations Acronyms and Definitions. RadioGraphics, 23, 195–213. Download from: (to become familiar with).

Reading list (articles to be provided in study guide):

- Johnson P., St John W., & Moyle W. (2006) Long-term mechanical ventilation in a critical care unit: existing in an uneveryday world Journal of Advanced Nursing 53(5), 551–558.
- Mol A. what diagnostic devices do: the case of blood sugar measurement. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 21: 9–22, 2000.
- Fex A, Ek AC and Soderhamn O. Self-care among persons using advanced medical technology at home. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 18, 2809–2817.
- Murphy F. Understanding the humanistic interaction with medical imaging technology Radiography (2001) 7, 193–201.
- Harvard Health Letter. Vol 36, number 1, Nov 2010 Smartphoning it in - New applications are turning cell phones into medical devices.

Internet links:

- European Commission
- Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA, UK)
- FDA (US)

ADDITIONAL NOTES Pre-requisite Qualification: SEC level Physics


Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Essay Yes 100%


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The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
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