Engineers at the University of Utah are working to build a wireless network to noninvasively measure the breathing of surgery patients, adults with sleep apnea, and babies at risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

The network consists of a series of wireless transceivers placed around a bed that can measure breathing rates and alert someone if breathing stops. Such a wireless system, that has no tubes or wires conncected tot he patient, can increase patient comfort, making sleep more comfortable.

“We can use this to increase the safety of people who are under sedation after surgery by knowing if they stop breathing,” says Neal Patwari, senior author of the study and assistant professor of electrical engineering at Utah. “We also envision a product that parents put around their baby’s crib to alert them if the baby stops breathing. It might be useful for babies at risk for SIDS.”

The engineering team has shown that a network of 20 wireless transceivers placed around a hospital bed could reliably detect breathing and estimate breathing rate to within two fifths of a breath per minute based on 30 seconds of data. This network is different from using wireless transmitters to relay measurements from conventional breathing monitors. The motion of the chest and abdomen during breathing impedes the wireless radio signals crisscrossing a bedridden patient.

Patawri is investigating to other possible uses for the device. He and the rest of the engineering team want to conduct research with doctors to test this method as an infant-breathing monitor, and, if it proves useful, develop it as a medical device that would need federal approval. Patwari also believes it may be useful for adults with sleep apnea.

Using off-the-shelf wireless transceivers similar to the ones found in home computer networks, the monitor is expected to cost less than existing breathing monitoring methods, say the developers. They estimate that it will be 5 years before such a product is on the market.

Source: University of Utah