Using dynamic code analysis to support FDA approval

Making a safety case for what goes
in the case
It isn’t enough to create a medical device that is safe to use. You must also demonstrate that it meets safety requirements. Otherwise, how do you know that it is indeed safe? And how can you have it approved by the FDA, MDD, MHRA, or any other regulatory agency?

If you’re familiar with such agencies, you’ll know that they approve the device as a whole, not its constituent parts. And yet, the device manufacturer must still present evidence to demonstrate the dependability of the device software. Hence, close attention to software development practices — together with appropriate validation tools and techniques — is key to securing regulatory approval.

Enter dynamic code analysis. Unlike static analysis, which analyzes source or object code without executing it, dynamic analysis examines compiled code while it is running. As a result, it tests not only the source code, but also the compiler, the linker, the development environment, and, potentially, the target hardware. Dynamic analysis generally involves code coverage analysis and unit testing; together, these can provide an effective way to detect software errors and to demonstrate what software has been exercised.

If you’re interested in how dynamic code analysis can support demonstrations of compliance with safety requirements, look no further than the recent paper, Using Dynamic Software Analysis to Support Medical Device Approval, written by Chris Ault of QNX and Mark Pitchford of LRDA. Among other things, it reviews the key capabilities of dynamic analysis tools and provides tables that map development activities with requirements in the IEC 62304 standard for medical device software.

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