Wireless sensing for NICU

March 4, 2019
Northwestern University team develops wireless sensors for monitoring blood flow, temperature, and more.

The human body arguably has some of the most complex process. As I’ve searched for blog topics during the past several months, wireless sensors designed to monitor various aspects of these processes have been among the technologies making headlines in the research world. Despite the plethora of body-monitoring wireless sensors, many of them seem to me to be limited in application. However, a recent development out of Northwestern University gave these sensors a little bit more credence in my book.

According to a Northwestern news article by Amanda Morris, an interdisciplinary team at Northwestern has developed a wireless sensor system to monitor the vital signs premature infants. The team designed the sensors to replace the current wired sensors used in neonatal intensive care units (NICU).

The system includes two wireless and battery-free sensors, one attached to the chest and the other attached to the foot, which bond with a skin-friendly adhesive. This replaces the five to six wired sensors that are typically used to monitor these babies, the article reports.

The wireless system goes beyond just removing wires to give babies more mobility and their parents more ability to cuddle and bond with their child, they also nearly double the range of vital measurements that can be collected. These measurements include: heart rate, respiration rate, core body temperature, blood oxygen levels, peripheral body temperature, blood pressure and blood flow.

Taking it further, the sensors can be worn during X-rays, MRIs and CT scans, according to the article.

 The system was recently tested on premature babies at Prentice Women’s Hospital and the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, and the team concluded that the system is as accurate as traditional wired sensors. The results of the study were published in the journal Science.

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