Image via Fraunhofer IKTS
Innovations often seek to better the lives of users, and the Pneumo.Vest project is no different, with scientists coming up with a wearable textile that allows patients with severe lung diseases to monitor their lung function while out and about.
Using integrated acoustic sensors hidden within the material, the patient’s respiratory state is tracked, with the signals being converted and displayed virtually by software so that individuals outside of intensive care units can still be constantly kept in check.
Inspired by the one ubiquitous tool of doctors worldwide—the stethoscope—researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS developed a wearable vest as a 21st-century addition.
The textile is said to be so accurate, its piezoceramic acoustic sensors can pick up any noise produced by the lungs in the thorax, no matter how imperceptible it is to our ears.
And with the software programmed to know the position of each sensor placed on the patient, it’s able to attribute the data collected to precise locations, resulting in a detailed optical view of the person’s entire ventilation system.
Furthermore, the vest can indicate the state of one’s lungs over a period of time, such as how it’s been faring in the past 24 hours. When on the go, it can even double up as a stethoscope and manually measure different points of a patient’s chest using simultaneous sensors.
Image via Fraunhofer IKTS
“Pneumo.Vest is not looking to make the stethoscope redundant and does not replace the skills of experienced pneumologists. However, auscultation or even CT scans of the lungs only ever present a snapshot at the time of examination,” explained Ralf Schallert, Project Manager at Fraunhofer IKTS.
“Our technology provides added value because it allows for the lungs to be monitored continuously in the same way as a long-term ECG, even if the patient is not attached to machines in the ICU but has instead been admitted to the general ward,” he added.
According to the team, the software complementing the vest has a part to play as well. Not only can it be used by doctors to view acoustic events in specific areas of the lungs, but its algorithms can also be set to filter out specific sounds such as heartbeats, or to amplify frequency ranges so that symptoms including rustling or wheezing, are more prominent.
Thus far, the first tests of the vest with staff at the University Clinic for Anesthesiology and Intensive Therapy at the University of Magdeburg have been encouraging, with the concept proving to work in the real world.
“Pneumo.Vest addresses exactly what we need. It serves as an instrument that expands our diagnostic options, relieves the burden on our hospital staff, and makes hospital stays more pleasant for patients,” said Dr Alexander Uhrig, who tested the technology.
“The feedback from doctors was overwhelmingly positive. The combination of acoustic sensors, visualization and machine learning algorithms will be able to reliably distinguish a range of different lung sounds,” concluded Schallert.
[via AZoSensors and Fraunhofer IKTS, images via Fraunhofer IKTS]