RF technology is an increasingly important part of many new healthcare technologies that are making the hospitals of the future possible. For example, today’s healthcare providers are increasingly utilizing advanced medical diagnostic, imaging, and treatment systems, including computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasound systems, to enable earlier detection of potential health conditions.
One element these systems have in common is that RF technology is used to power many of their critical functions. Medical electronics applications depend on high performance and reliability from components such as coaxial cables and connectors.
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Medical advancements that depend on RF performance can be narrowed down into three main categories. These include electrosurgical devices such as lasers, robotic surgery, radiofrequency ablation (RFA), microwave ablation (MWA), and even cosmetic procedures. Secondly, MRI machines leverage RF pulses carried by coaxial cables, and other diagnostic imaging technologies. Infrastructure and connectivity are the third area focused on in this webinar; it includes critical communications aspects of hospital networks and an overlapping function with patient and equipment monitoring.
As healthcare innovations continue to advance, the underlying technology needed to support them must progress too. Medical electronics applications depend on high performance and reliability from components such as coaxial cables and connectors.
Electrosurgery uses radio frequency, specifically high frequency alternating current, to achieve thermal effects within biological tissue. An electrosurgical device unit (ESU) consists of a generator and a handpiece with one or more electrodes. Electrosurgical generators produce a variety of electrical waveforms. As these waveforms change, so do the corresponding tissue effects.
Two minimally invasive procedures that rely on RF technology are leading the way in electrosurgical treatments.
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and microwave ablation (MWA) use electrical and microwave energy to heat precision areas and destroy abnormal cells. The configuration of these life-saving machines requires coaxial cables in two critical places: within the generator itself and outside of it, connecting the external probes and catheters to the generator.
These require low-loss cables that are easy to install in tight and compact places. Furthermore, using a cable with a kink-free design is ideal for installations with numerous flexing twists and turns. Connecting the probes and catheters to the generator requires cables that are small, flexible, and nimble enough for the precise movements needed when performing procedures.
A sample application in this arena is the use of Times Microwave T-COM®-400 and StripFlex® SFT- 304 solutions to hook up the generators and their inner workings. These cables are easy to install in tight and compact places and their kink-free design makes them an ideal choice for installations with lots of flexing twists and turns.
The TFT family of cables were used in another application to connect electrosurgical probes and catheters to the generator. TFT cables are small, flexible and nime precise movements that doctors need.ble enough to accommodate th
Additionally, robotic-assisted treatments are now often performed along with RFA and MWA. Improvements in technologies such as virtual reality will bring more remote procedures as well. Cutting-edge custom coaxial cable solutions are often needed to power this, incorporating features such as low loss, high performance, precision, shielding, and flexibility.
Times Microwave has a long history of supplying high-performance RF interconnect solutions to MRI manufacturers. MRI works on RF pulses carried by coaxial cables like Times’ high-power LMR® 900 and HP-1200 cables.
An MRI system must be well shielded to minimize interference with a healthcare facility’s communications networks and electronic systems. The MRI patient chamber is usually connected to signal and power sources in a separate, shielded room, interconnected by lengths of coaxial cable and connectors. These cables must send consistent signals between magnetized and ordinary environments with high-power demands. This can create challenging performance requirements for the coaxial interconnections.
While conventional corrugated cables meet low-loss specifications, they are difficult to install in the restricted spaces often found in MRI applications. Cable assemblies must therefore handle suitable signal power levels without distortion and with performance levels equipping them for extreme conditions (similar to the requirements of military electronics systems). These cables need to exhibit low loss and other electrical characteristics to support MRI system performance, along with mechanical properties that can simplify installation of the system and the cables within, such as incorporating a tight bend radius for fitting into small spaces.
Regarding other diagnostic imaging applications, there are two primary types of ultrasounds that also depend on high-performance RF interconnects: diagnostic, which most of us are familiar with, and therapeutic, a high-intensity focused ultrasound for therapy and medical procedures referred to as microwave diathermy.
RFID is used in patient tracking and inventory management applications within a healthcare setting, as well as additional uses. An RFID tag consists of a tiny radio transponder, a radio receiver and a transmitter; it uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects.
Additionally, as the Internet of Things continues to grow, we will see many new and smaller wearable devices that will force RF cable diameters to get smaller and smaller. At the same time, the amount of data on networks will increase, and the addition of telehealth and internal health networks and hospitals will add to this demand.
As the healthcare industry continues leveraging technical advancements, the communications technology powering them must also sufficiently advance to provide adequate bandwidth to support many simultaneous users, real-time video, large data transfers, and more.
5G wireless networks are now being rolled out to provide this much-needed bandwidth, at higher millimeter-wave frequency bands. For example, telemedicine requires a network that can support real-time high-quality video, which has traditionally required wired networks. With 5G however, healthcare systems can enable mobile networks to handle telemedicine visits, which has the potential to greatly increase their reach. 5G technology can also enable patients to get treatment sooner and have access to a wider variety of specialists. The technology can also increase remote monitoring offerings for healthcare systems since providers can be confident they will receive the data needed, in real time, to help provide excellent patient care.
5G will also enable the continued development of surgical robots and the networks supporting them. Many key healthcare functions are beginning to use artificial intelligence (AI) to determine potential diagnosis and decide on the best treatment plan for a specific patient. Additionally, AI can help predict which patients are more likely to have postoperative complications, allowing healthcare systems to provide early interventions when necessary.
Ultimately, by enabling these technologies through advanced communications networks, healthcare systems can improve the quality of care and patient experience, reduce costs, and more. But 5G demands a high level of interconnectivity – the frequencies can span from 24 GHz to 100 GHz, which is much higher than traditional wireless networks. As a result, RF performance and reliability are critical to support 5G.
Optimal coaxial cables for this environment require higher frequency, broad bandwidth, proven reliability, and low latency. Cable construction should also focus on high flexibility, low insertion loss and superior shielding. Times Microwave solutions for higher frequencies include LMR, MAXGAIN® and T-COM products.
Following are some the questions that were asked by the audience:
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