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MWEE MARAPR 2014

News — Comment Wireless set to change the face of Medicine Wireless and smartphones are to change the face of medicine as we know it today, especially in monitoring and the way healthcare could be delivered. Some inroads have already been made and early example are emerging. The sports and fitness market has benefited from a boom in wearable devices primarily designed to monitor physical parameters as well as some vital signs of the human body. As this area is not regulated, it has been free to develop products rapidly. However, this experiment is already leading researchers and designers to apply some of these principles to medicine. By leveraging the smartphone, a relatively inexpensive and powerful computing device is available for processing and communicating data over global networks. Further, such devices are intuitive and can be used by anyone. The key here is to develop robust and reliable sensors that can deliver the patients data to the smartphone. Some major advantages of such an approach include the possibility of continuous monitoring, much lower costs than traditional purpose-built equipment, a global network that reaches into the patients home and can deliver data anywhere and anytime, and the ability to implant devices without invasive wires. Could healthcare costs be kept in control by keeping as many patients out of hospital as possible? Two examples cited below show how progress is advancing even in the conservative and highly regulated hospital environment. Further as costs come down, high quality medical care taken for granted in developed countries will benefit more people in less developed countries. Wireless pacemaker One area that has already benefitted from wireless technology is that of hearing aids. However, the advantages offered to devices such as pacemakers are even more alluring. Although traditional pacemakers pose minimal risk, patients are still vulnerable to some complications. These can stem from the pulse generator implanted under the skin of the chest, where infections or skin breakdown can occur, and particularly from the leads, or wires, that run from the generator through a vein to the heart. Leads can break, dislodge or contribute to a vein blockage. To help address these issues, a small, wireless selfcontained pacemaker made by Nanostim Inc., appears safe and feasible for use in patients, according to a small study in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. The pacemaker has no leads, its pulse generator lies within the unit in the heart, and is placed without the need for surgery. At 6 millimeters in diameter and about 42 millimeters long, the wireless device is smaller than a triple-A battery. It’s faster and easier to implant than traditional pacemakers, and it’s programmed and monitored similarly, according to Vivek Y. Reddy, M.D., lead author of the study and director of the Cardiac Arrhythmia Service at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “While a much larger study is required to prove this, one may expect the leadless pacemaker to be associated with less chance of infection and leadrelated problems such as lead fracture,” Reddy said. “Overall, the self-contained pacemaker is a paradigm shift in cardiac pacing.” The device is a self-modulating pacer guided into place using a catheter inserted in the femoral vein and is affixed to the heart in the right ventricle, the same place a standard lead would be located. The device is for patients who require singlechamber pacing, or roughly 20 percent to 30 percent of U.S. and European patients who need pacemakers. Smartphone app oximeter LionsGate Technologies (LGTmedical), a Vancouver-based social enterprise, has secured its first major financial backers to scale up development of the Phone Oximeter™, an app and medical sensor that turns a non-specialist, communitylevel health worker’s smartphone, tablet computer or laptop into an affordable and simple but sophisticated medical-grade diagnostic tool typically available in the developing world only in some hospitals. The Phone Oximeter offers hope of preventing thousands of deaths and improving the health of expectant mothers, newborns and children throughout the developing world. Developed by scientists Drs. Mark Ansermino, Guy Dumont and Peter von Dadelszen of the University of British Columbia, the device measures blood oxygen levels through a light sensor attached to a person’s fingertip. This technique is known as pulse oximetry. The Phone Oximeter™, using a predictive score, can accurately identify an estimated 80% of cases of pregnant women at risk of life-threatening complications due to high blood pressure. The condition, pre-eclampsia, is one of three leading causes of maternal mortality. Each year, about 76,000 of an estimated 10 million pregnant women worldwide who develop pre-eclampsia die from it and related complications. The number of fetus and infant deaths due to these disorders is estimated at more than 500,000. “That equates to over 1,600 deaths of pregnant young women and babies every day - an unacceptable burden - and more than 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries - an issue of social justice,” said Dr. von Dadelszen. The Phone Oximeter™ can also reveal dangerously low oxygen levels in patients with pneumonia, which kills more than 1 million children annually. The $40 target price will make it 80% less costly than any other device capable today of meeting high-level medical standards. By Jean-Pierre Joosting Editor: Microwave Engineering Europe www.microwave-eetimes.com Microwave Engineering Europe March-April 2014 5


MWEE MARAPR 2014
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