Researchers at MIT are developing an ingestible electronic sensor that can measure a patient’s heart rate and breathing rate. Current methods to monitor vital signs require physical contact between the device and the skin or at least constant nearby presence to the patient. However, this can result in skin irritation and pain, especially in patients with burns, while with contact-free devices the patient has to remain in bed if readings are to be gathered. Additionally, measurements may not be accurate under high physical activity conditions. The ingestible sensor developed at MIT would enable monitoring of these vital signs from the inside, sans contact with the skin.
Once ingested, the sensor acquires sound waves using a small microphone. The acoustic waves are then transformed into heart rate and respiratory rate using signal processing algorithms, thus acquiring vital signs from within the GI tract. The current sensor has been tested in pigs, indicating that heart rate and respiratory rate can be accurately measured under different conditions including whether the animals were fed or fasted. Moving forward, researchers need the make the multivitamin-sized sensor entirely wireless and composed of FDA approved materials. The device would only remain in the body for one to two days, and could also be used in non-clinical settings to monitor fatigue in military personnel or athletic performance.
Study in PLOS ONE: Physiologic Status Monitoring via the Gastrointestinal Tract