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practice ES: T-shirt which monitors a patient’s physiology and location successfully tested

TopES: T-shirt which monitors a patient’s physiology and location successfully tested

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An 'intelligent' T-shirt which monitors its wearer's physiology and locates them within the hospital, has been successfully tested at La Paz Hospital in Madrid, it was announced on 19 September 2011.

Designed to be used in hospitals, the T-shirt is a biomonitoring platform which enables healthcare professionals to monitor such physiological parameters as the patient's temperature and pulse in a non-intrusive manner. It can also pinpoint the patient's location on a map of the hospital, within a two-metre margin of error, as though it were an indoor Global Positioning System (GPS). Furthermore, it can determine if the subject is seated, lying down, walking or running.

"The information gathered by an intelligent T-shirt using e-textile technology is sent, without using wires, to an information management system, which then shows the patient's location and vital signs in real time," explained researchers Víctor Custodio, Gregorio López and José Ignacio Moreno of the Department of Telematic Engineering at Carlos III University in Madrid (la Universidad Carlos III de Madrid - UC3M, in Spanish).

The system can be divided into two parts: the fixed infrastructure, which would be pre-installed in the hospital, and the mobile units, which would move with the patients. The mobile units comprise:

  • The T-shirt. This is washable and includes electrodes that detect bioelectric power through which an electrocardiogram can be obtained. In addition, it has a removable device that includes a thermometer and an accelerometer, which are used to take the patient's temperature, their posture (standing, reclining, etc.) and their level of physical activity.
  • A localisation device, which can be carried in a pocket and which in the future will be sewn into the T-shirt. This device is activated periodically, receiving signals from the units that make up the fixed localisation infrastructure, and wirelessly sends the relevant information to the information management system. Once the information is received there, the localisation algorithm computes the patient's position.

The information management system stores all of the patient's information for possible subsequent studies, such as the analysis of how a particular patient's level of physical activity affects their electrocardiogram. In addition, the program has a series of alarms, which are activated when the measured parameters exceed pre-set limits, such as a body temperature of over 38ºC or a pulse of over 100 beats per minute.

The UC3M researchers explained: "All of these alarms can be modified by the doctors in order to adjust them to the specific needs of each patient. Whenever any one of these alarms goes off, a message will appear on the screen, and it can also send an SMS alerting the doctor in charge or the proper hospital employee who, at that moment, is closest to the patient in question."

The prototype system was developed as part of the project 'LOBIN: Localización y Biomonitorización a través de Redes Inalámbricas en Entornos Hospitalarios' (Locating and biomonitoring by means of Wireless Networks in Hospitals), which was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade, and involved the collaboration of researchers at UC3M with other research and development centres and companies. The validation phase of the project took place in the Cardiology Unit of La Paz Hospital in Madrid, where the system was tested 24 hours a day, with five patients being monitored simultaneously.

The UC3M researchers said: "Thanks to this experience with the hospital personnel, who were very satisfied with the platform, we found several valuable possible improvements to the system."

With slight modifications, the system can also be applied in other areas, such as applications involving the early diagnosis of cardiac anomalies in athletes, or as a telemedicine device to monitor patients in their homes.


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