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Scientists seek funding for ‘touch free’ vital signs monitoring technique



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.

The new technique should benefit all ages, as well as those with Covid-19 where the risk of cross-infection is high.

Dr Dimitris Anagnostou, associate professor and project lead, explained: “For infants and young children, extended use of electrodes and probes can cause skin damage as well as additional distress, while burn patients and those with compromised skin conditions are more challenging to monitor for long periods with wired devices.

“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 un-intrusive, real-time, continuous health monitoring.”

Radars have been widely used for many years to determine the distance between aircrafts or the velocity of a vehicle by comparing the frequency or phase shift of the reflected and transmitted signals.

The new research works by detecting tiny physiological movements in the body of around one millimetre, even when an individual is asleep. The results of the research indicate excellent accuracy even if a relatively low frequency (2.4 GHz) is used, which should aid its progression into home and clinical settings.

The team has designed a proof-of-concept prototype which can be built into a hospital headboard or mounted on the ceiling.

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The team will now take the project a step further, utilising 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.

Additional funding is now being sought to accelerate the technology into clinical settings.

The research has been funded by Marie Curie Reintegration Fellowship through EU Horizon2020 and delivered in collaboration with associate professor Dr Souheil Ben-Smida, PhD student Panagiota Kontou.



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