The West of Ireland is fast becoming a centre of excellence for biomedical engineering. This field combines engineering expertise with medical needs for the enhancement of health care. It is a branch of engineering in which knowledge and skills are developed and applied to define and solve problems in biology and medicine.

Biomedical engineers work with living systems, and apply advanced technology to the complex problems of medical care. Biomedical engineers may be called upon to design instruments and devices, to bring together knowledge from many sources to develop new procedures, or to carry out research to acquire knowledge needed to solve new problems.


Examples of work carried out by biomedical engineers in the West of Ireland include:

  • Designing and constructing life support equipment such as respirators and defibrillators.
  • Designing instruments and devices for angioplasty procedures, such as balloon catheters and stents.
  • Designing and fabricating implantable artificial devices such as hip and knee joints.
  • Designing and building sensors to quantify components of the blood's chemistry.
  • Developing clinical laboratories and other units within the hospital and health care delivery system that utilise advanced technology.
  • Constructing and implementing mathematical/computer models of physiological systems.
  • Creating new diagnostic procedures.
  • Designing and fabricating biomaterials and determining the mechanical, transport, and biocompatibility properties of implantable artificial materials.

Galway is fortunate to be the European headquarters for three world leading biomedical companies manufacturing devices for PTCA procedures; Biocompatibles Ltd, Boston Scientific Ireland Ltd, and Medtronic AVE Ltd. These companies employ over 3000 people directly in their Manufacturing Facility and Research and Development Centres.

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) occurs when cholesterol fats are deposited in the coronary arteries, narrowing or blocking them, thereby reducing the heart's blood supply. This build up is called artherosclerotic plaque. There can be single or multiple blockages and they can vary in severity and location. For decades physicians have attempted to increase the diminished blood supply to the heart following coronary artery blockage. Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG) surgery is a common method used to treat CAD and has proven to be safe and effective over time. A more recent and non-invasive technique for treating CAD is Coronary Angioplasty, or Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty (PTCA). Coronary Angioplasty is a procedure that opens blocked coronary arteries, most commonly by inflating a tiny balloon in the coronary artery. However, there are several types of angioplasty and the type of procedure chosen depends on the characteristics of the individual's artery and the extent of the damage caused.

This is the most common type of angioplasty procedure. A catheter (thin tube) is guided into the blocked artery. A smaller catheter with a balloon tip goes into the first catheter and a balloon is inflated to push the plaque against the artery wall and open the artery. The balloon is then deflated and the catheter withdrawn. This works by not only compressing the plaque but also by enlarging the artery.

A stent is a tiny stainless steel cage that is occasionally inserted into the artery after angioplasty has been performed to help maintain patency of the artery. It may reduce the rate of restenosis (closing or narrowing of the artery). When stents are used a patient may need to be on blood thinning medication to help prevent blood clots.

Instead of pushing the plaque against the wall of the artery, the plaque is scraped off and removed from the area.

Laser procedures are available, but rarely used to remove plaque in the coronary arteries. Tiny laser beams are used to cut away the plaque and reopen the arteries.


The biomedical industries located in the West of Ireland employ engineers from many disciplines. Typically engineers with a qualification in either mechanical, manufacturing, production, electronic or software engineering are employed.

The technology encountered by these engineers includes Injection and Insert Moulding, Extrusion, Balloon-forming, Chemical Coating, Wire-knitting, EDM, Electro-plating, Electro-polishing, Grinding, Surface Treatment, Laser Welding, Laser Cutting.

Many of the biomedical companies have located a Research and Development Centre alongside their Manufacturing Facility. In these centres, engineers work very closely with world leading physicians on the development of innovative and technology driven products and processes.

These engineers are constantly working with world class development tools, experimental techniques, rapid prototyping, CAD, CAM and Finite Element Analysis techniques.