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Mixed-signal FPGAs advance medical devices

Posted: 15 Oct 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:miniaturisation  portability  Medical device  mixed-signal FPGAs 

In a typical session, blood is pumped from the body into the hemodialysis machine. There, the machine's dialyzer (filter) purges the blood of metabolic wastes, restores the proper electrolyte balance, and eliminates extra fluid. Then, the clean blood is pumped back into the body.

To fulfill the critical functions of the machine, a typical hemodialysis device leverages several microcontrollers to monitor and control the flow of blood and other fluids, sound alarms, and shut down the machine when necessary.

Within a typical hemodialysis machine are specific design building blocks. The power control block performs temperature sensing to enable the fan driver and performs watchdog and battery backup functions. The user block inputs patient information via a keyboard or touchpad for customisation of the treatment parameters. It also enables the health provider to monitor patient status and treatment during dialysis.

The data-log/communication interface manages the use of flash/EEPROM and the communication port. The audio/alarm output function is accessible via several blocks and controllers to sound the status alerts.

The signal conditioning/sensor control block is tightly integrated with the mechanical components of the system—the dialyzer and tubes. Together, these control the release of various anticoagulants, control and sense temperature using comparators, general-purpose and precision Op Amps, and ADCs, control the mix and flow of the dialysate, and other critical functions.

The pump/motor control and driver circuitry manage the many pumps, valves, motors, and heaters in the machine while the arterial and venous control monitors the level and pressure sensors. It is interesting to note that though the pump motor control and arterial and venous control monitors are unique to the hemodialysis machine, many other controllers are common to most clinical medical devices.

Integrated functions

Today's single-chip, flash-based mixed-signal FPGAs offer integrated analogue capabilities, flash memory, FPGA fabric and, often, an embedded industry-standard microprocessor. As a result, they can perform the system, power and thermal management and control functions of clinical medical devices—from system power-down/up functions and data logging to temperature and voltage sensing.

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