The end of the stethoscope? Incredible wireless system allows doctors to monitor a patient's heart using radio waves

Monday, November 27, 2017

Source: Daily Mail

The doctor's stethoscope has been a symbol of the medical profession for generations.

But its days could be numbered as scientists have devised a way of monitoring a patient's heart without touching the skin using radio waves.

They can also monitor other vital signs such as blood pressure without using an uncomfortable cuff on the arm as well as a patient's breathing rate.

nstead of taping electrodes to the skin – or making patients wear a blood pressure cuff – wireless tags are worn – attached to the sleeve of a patient's top, and to their chest.

The tags mean a patient can move around while being monitored away from their machines.

Potentially, a whole ward full of patients could be monitored at one time by the system.

It also means they can monitor patients at night as they sleep without waking them.

The monitoring system works by measuring how much of a radio signal is reflected from the body by the wireless tags – and how much is absorbed.

By comparing the two, the scientists say they can measure the movement of internal organs such as the lungs and heart.

Researchers from Cornell University unveiled their system in the journal Nature Electronics.

The feedback can then be collected to retrieve the heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate, and breath effort – how hard or easy the patient finds breathing.

In tests, the system  was tested on a volunteer who sat on a chair for 30 minutes, and also carried out 'moderate activity'.

The system could read signals from antennae in the detectors at the wrist and chest from a distance of from around 6.5 ft away.

The researchers, led by Xiaonan Hui, write: 'Our system is capable of monitoring multiple people simultaneously and could lead to the cost-effective automation of vital sign monitoring in care facilities.'

They add: 'Our non-contact sensing of blood pressure presents significant advantages over direct pressure-based methods, which cause discomfort and disrupt the circadian rhythm, especially in long-term monitoring of elderly patients.' 

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