Non-contact sensors monitor patient heartbeats from a meter away
July 1, 2010
When rest is important to a patient, being rigged up to a heart monitor or disrupted whilst they sleep and having a cold stethoscope placed on their chest isn’t ideal. To get around this problem, a team of scientists at the University of Sussex, UK have successfully developed sensors that are able to detect a heartbeat up to a meter away.
The Electric Potential Sensors (EPS) are the world’s first electrical sensors able to monitor heartbeats accurately whilst patients relax in their bed, or rest at home. This breakthrough device gives medical teams and health workers the chance to administer patient-friendly monitoring with minimum impact on mobility or personal space.
The wideband sensors are so sensitive they also have the capability to detect muscle signals and eye movements, or can even be used to detect brain and nerve-fiber signals.
With financial help from the South East Health Technology Alliance (SEHTA), the research team responsible for creating EPS are also currently working with in-home smart technology company PassivSystems to determine whether there’s scope to develop an even more flexible home monitoring system.
In theory, these sensors could be used to help elderly and frail people living independently in their homes. As well as monitoring the occupancy of a room, it would also be possible to detect and alert a medical team automatically if a patient’s heartbeat changes. The EPS monitor also doubles up as a traditional heart monitor, that can take a reading from the tip of a finger.
Speaking on the development of the Electric Potential Sensors, SEHTA CEO David Parry commented, “Remote telecare can play a crucial role in helping people to remain in their homes rather than going into sheltered accommodation, but the current Passive InfraRed sensors require movement to detect a person’s presence and cannot easily differentiate between multiple people in a room.”
The EPS monitor isn’t available commercially yet, and still has to undergo patent licensing and further clinical trials before it can be rolled out to medical establishments. However, for the scientific community and especially Dr. Helen Prance, head of the Department of Engineering and Design at the University of Sussex, the four-year project looks set to make big waves in many aspects of medical science, aviation, microchip manufacture and the automotive industry.
Speaking on the future of EPS technology, Prance commented, “It is our belief that this non-contact technology will form the basis for new imaging instruments which will impact on both research and routine monitoring in many areas of science and technology.”
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