Wearable monitoring
Written by Alex Armstrong   
Tuesday, 20 September 2011

A t-shirt that can send information about a patient's vital signs has been developed by a team of Spanish researchers and opens up new possibilities for monitoring cardiac conditions.

The growth in mobile phone health-oriented apps shows that there is a ready market for such things, but to to things properly you need additional hardware and sensors. This intelligent t-shirt and its infrastructure is able to monitor physiological parameters, such as temperature and heart rate, in a non-intrusive manner and can determine if a  subject is seated, lying down, walking or running.

The prototype was developed at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) as part  of LOBIN, a collaborative project for "Locating and biomonitoring by means of Wireless Networks in Hospitals" funded by Spain's Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce.

The initial system, designed to be used in hospitals, comprised a fixed infrastructure, to be pre-installed in the hospital, and mobile units, which move with the patients. As well as a localization device and the t-shirt with it electrodes that detect voltages  to enable an electrocardiogram to be obtained, the mobile unit has a removable device that includes a thermometer and an accelerometer.

 

smarttshirt

 

The information management system stores data that can be analyzed in various ways, such as how a patient's level of physical activity affects the quality of the electrocardiogram. In addition, the program has a series of alarms which are activated when the measured parameters exceed pre-established limits, such as 38ºC body temperature or 100 heartbeats per minute.When one is triggered an on-screen message appears and an SMS alert can be sent to the doctor in charge or to the nearest available  hospital personnel.

The garment-based system has been tested at the Cardiology Unit of La Paz Hospital in Madrid, monitoring five patients simultaneously 24.

"Thanks to this experience with the hospital personnel, who were very satisfied with the platform, we found several valuable possible improvements to the system",

commented researchers Víctor Custodio, Gregorio López and José Ignacio Moreno, of UC3M's Department of Telematic Engineering.

With slight modifications, the prototype could used to monitor patients in their homes, cutting the length of hospital stays, or in applications involving early diagnosis of cardiac anomalies in athletes.

An article describing the system’s architecture, its development and testing process and the validation results has been published in the IEEE Transactions on Information Technology in Biomedicine.

More information:

LOBIN: E-Textile and Wireless-Sensor-Network-Based Platform for Healthcare Monitoring in Future Hospital Environments, (November 2010) López, Víctor Custodio y José Ignacio Moreno. IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IN BIOMEDICINE, 
Vol: 14 -6  pp1446-1458.

 

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