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Implantable RF Medical Devices: The Benefits of High-Speed Communication and Much Greater Communication Distances in Biomedical Applications

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3 Author(s)
Chow, E.Y. ; Cyberonics, Inc., Houston, TX, USA ; Morris, M.M. ; Irazoqui, P.P.

In the early ages of implantable devices, radio frequency (RF) technologies were not commonplace due to the challenges stemming from the inherent nature of biological tissue boundaries. As technology improved and our understanding matured, the benefit of RF in biomedical applications surpassed the implementation challenges and is thus becoming more widespread. The fundamental challenge is due to the significant electromagnetic (EM) effects of the body at high frequencies. The EM absorption and impedance boundaries of biological tissue result in significant reduction of power and signal integrity for transcutaneous propagation of RF fields. Furthermore, the dielectric properties of the body tissue surrounding the implant must be accounted for in the design of its RF components, such as antennas and inductors, and the tissue is often heterogeneous and the properties are highly variable. Additional challenges for implantable applications include the need for miniaturization, power minimization, and often accounting for a conductive casing due to biocompatibility and hermeticity requirements [1]?[3]. Today, wireless technologies are essentially a must have in most electrical implants due to the need to communicate with the device and even transfer usable energy to the implant [4], [5]. Low-frequency wireless technologies face fewer challenges in this implantable setting than its higher frequency, or RF, counterpart, but are limited to much lower communication speeds and typically have a very limited operating distance. The benefits of high-speed communication and much greater communication distances in biomedical applications have spawned numerous wireless standards committees, and the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has allocated numerous frequency bands for medical telemetry as well as those to specifically target implantable applications. The development of analytical models, advanced EM simulation software, and representative RF human phantom recipes h- s significantly facilitated design and optimization of RF components for implantable applications.

Published in:

Microwave Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:14 ,  Issue: 4 )