How MLCC Capacitors Support Implantable Deep Brain Stimulators

This post based on Knowles Precision Devices blog explains how MLCC ceramic capacitors are used and enable implantable deep brain stimulators (DBS).

A deep brain stimulator (DBS), also known as a neuro-stimulator, is a medical device that uses electrical stimulation to treat neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, dystonia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

The DBS is typically implanted under the skin near the collarbone or in the abdomen, and connected to a thin wire, or lead, that runs under the skin to the targeted area of the brain as shown in Figure 1. 

The Critical Role Capacitors Play in a DBS

Capacitors are essential components in making sure a DBS functions correctly and safely. There are many roles capacitors must serve within the different parts of a DBS including the following:

Figure 1. A diagram showing how a DBS is typically implanted in a patient. 

DBS Design Challenges that Impact Capacitors Selection

As with any device implanted in the human body, there are a number of design challenges engineers must navigate when selecting any component, including capacitors, for a DBS. One big challenge is the size constraints associated with devices implanted inside the human body. Implantable devices need to be made as unobtrusive as possible, which is why developers are constantly working to further miniaturize these systems.

Additionally, for any electronic device implanted inside the human body, safety is paramount, and these devices must be designed for high reliability and longevity. Patients cannot face risks such as an internal shock resulting from a malfunctioning component or needing to undergo another surgery to replace a component that wore out far too soon.  

In general, MLCCs are well-suited for the many capacitor roles required in a DBS, plus they are also capable of addressing the many unique challenges of developing electronic systems for implantable medical devices. The qualities that make MLCCs an excellent fit include the following: 

Meeting DBS Design Constraints

Beyond designing MLCCs to include all the qualities discussed above, at Knowles Precision Devices, we also take the time to ensure our MLCCs are ready to meet the reliability and regulatory requirements implantable medical devices face. To do this, we work closely with medical device innovators to create source control drawings (SCD) that govern every aspect of the capacitors we supply. The SCD’s provide an engineering description, qualifications, and acceptance criteria for the delivery of specialized components for critical applications. The two main SCD specifications we follow for medical components are MIL-PRF-55681 and MIL-PRF-1234.

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