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Contactless device enables earlier detection of heart problems

08 January 2016

Researchers at the University of Waterloo have developed a system for monitoring vital signs that could lead to improved detection and prevention of some cardiovascular issues.

Professor Alexander Wong and Robert Amelard at the Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging analyze blood-flow data extracted with their new touchless device, pictured right (photo: UWaterloo/Fred Hunsberger)

Using patent-pending technology called Coded Hemodynamic Imaging, the device is the first portable system that monitors a patient's blood flow at multiple arterial points simultaneously and without direct contact with the skin. It is ideal for assessing patients with painful burns, highly contagious diseases, or infants in neonatal intensive care whose tiny fingers make traditional monitoring difficult.

"Traditional systems in wide use now take one blood-pulse reading at one spot on the body," says said Robert Amelard, a PhD candidate in systems design engineering at Waterloo. "This device acts like many virtual sensors that measure blood-flow behaviour on various parts of the body. The device relays measurements from all of these pulse points to a computer for continuous monitoring. By way of comparison, think of measuring the traffic flow across an entire city rather than through one intersection."

Continuous data collection at different parts of the body provides a more complete picture of what's happening in the body. Whole-body imaging opens doors for advanced monitoring that can't be done with the traditional, single-point methods.

"Since the device can also scan multiple patients individually at once and from a distance, consider the potential in mass emergency scenarios or long-term care homes," says Professor Alexander Wong, of the Faculty of Engineering at Waterloo. "This technology provides for a more predictive approach to monitor vitals and the potential for its use is extensive, such as indicating arterial blockages that might otherwise go undetected, or warning older adults who risk falling as a result of getting dizzy when they stand."

Robert Amelard is the lead author of a recent paper published in Nature's Scientific Reports that details part of the technology behind the device.

A short video clip of the device in action can be viewed here.


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