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Scientists unveil tech for touch free vital signs monitoring

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The new technique allows for no-touch monitoring of the lungs and heart

Scientists at Heriot-Watt University have developed a technique that monitors a patient’s vital signs completely touch free.

By using a continuous wave radar-based system to sense tiny chest movements, the new method can accurately measure an individual’s heart rate and respiratory rate without the need for wires, probes, wearable technology or other skin attachments. It could also identify early signs of heart disease like Arrhythmia, while highlighting deterioration for those living with Dementia.

Dr Dimitris Anagnostou, associate professor and project lead, said: “Continuous monitoring of an individual’s vital signs can be necessary for several reasons. In hospitals, it helps clinicians to determine which patients need urgent help, if someone is improving and can provide early warning signs of a more significant problem allowing quicker intervention.

“For infants and young children, extended use of electrodes and probes can cause skin damage as well as additional distress. Burn patients and those with compromised skin conditions are more challenging to monitor for long periods with wired devices. Our technology allows a patient full mobility while being monitored 24/7. Capable of working unmanned, the signal can also penetrate walls and protect privacy.

“Our approach has wide reaching applications for the treatment of COVID-19 and can allow the progression of the virus to be monitored long-term without increasing the risk of infection.”

The team has designed a proof-of-concept prototype which can be built into a hospital headboard or mounted on the ceiling. Further applications could include its use in prisons, care homes and sheltered housing.

The team will now utilise Wi-Fi signals to extract complimentary location and position tracking data that will further support those with assisted living needs to feel safer at home. The team will trial the technology which shows when a person has fallen or if their daily movements have significantly changed, highlighting the progression of several degenerative diseases.

Anagnostou added: “While our technology is not designed to be a diagnostic tool, we are confident it can support those with assisted living needs to remain at home for longer with greater confidence that they have unintrusive, real-time, continuous health monitoring. This technology clearly demonstrates what can be achieved through academic collaboration across disciplines and institutes.”

The research is funded by Marie Curie Reintegration Fellowship through EU Horizon2020. Additional funding is now being sought to accelerate the technology into clinical settings.

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