Saturday, October 1, 2011

Software race conditions in intravascular radiation delivery systems

There are very few MAUDE reports that cite "race conditions" in medical device software as a cause of malfunction, patient harm, or death. But to a computer scientist, this 2002 MAUDE report on a radiation delivery device sounds like it's describing a classic race condition:

The root cause for the appearance of the partial treatment button is the result of a software anomaly combined with the user not following the ifu. The time window necessary for this anomaly to occur (after completion of the treatment and prior to the treatment summary screen being displayed) is small (approximately 1 second),...

The phrase "race condition" does appear occasionally in MAUDE. Here's a sample excerpt.
Engineering investigation determined that after the table top is tilted to 88 degees, releasing and engaging the angulation knob very quickly when the table is near its extension limit creates a software race condition that allows the table to continue its motion towards the floor.

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