Soft Wearable Health Monitor Continuously Measures ECG, Breathing, Heart Rate

Flexible health monitor


Flexible health monitor
Image: Georgia Tech

Continuous, long-term health monitoring is critical for the treatment process; it offers subtle information to doctors on the health of the patient. However, children , the elderly and people with different conditions often struggle to wear body-worn sensors. Scientists at Georgia Tech have developed a wearable wireless device that can be worn long-term on the body to measure a range of physiological signals eg. heart rate etc.

To a portable monitoring system such as a smartphone or tablet computer, the soft and conformable display can measure electrocardiogram ( ECG), heart rate, respiratory rate and movement activity data up to 15 metres. The electronics are mounted on an extensible substratum and are connected to gold, skin-like electrodes through printed connectors that can stretch with the medical film in which they are embedded, reports Georgia Tech News Center.

“This health monitor has a key advantage for young children who are always moving as the soft conformal device can accommodate this activity with gentle skin integration,” said Woon-Hong Yeo, assistant professor at the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and Wallace H. Coulter Biomedical Engineering Department at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “This is designed to meet the electronic health monitoring needs of people whose sensitive skin may be harmed by conventional monitors.”

Since the device conforms to the skin, it avoids signal problems that can be created through the movement of the typical metal-gel electrodes across the skin. Even a person who is walking, running or climbing stairs can get accurate signals from the device.

“When you put a conventional electrode on your chest, movement from sitting up or walking creates artifacts of motion which are challenging to separate from the signals you want to measure,” he said. “Because our device is soft and conformal, it moves with the skin and provides information that cannot be seen with the motion artifacts of conventional sensors.”

wearable patch on an arm

The display uses three gold electrodes embedded in the film and also includes the electronic processing unit. The full health monitor is just three inches in diameter, and half that size would be a more advanced version under production. A small rechargeable battery now powers the wireless monitor, but future versions may replace the battery with external radio frequency charging system.

“The monitor can be worn over several days, maybe for as long as two weeks,” Yeo said. “The membrane is waterproof, which means an adult can take a shower while wearing it. The electronic components can then be recycled after use.

The researchers have developed two Monitor models. One is based on medical tape and intended for short-term use in hospitals or other care facilities, while the other uses a soft elastomer medical film approved for use in wound care. The latter can remain on the skin longer, the Georgia Tech report said.

“The tools are fully dry and require no gel to capture signals from the skin,” Yeo explained. “There’s nothing to wear between the skin and the ultra-thin sensor.”


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