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Wireless Sensor System Feasible for Monitoring Vital Signs in NICU

Operation possible when immersed in water and compatible with essential medical imaging

FRIDAY, March 1, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Wireless epidermal electronic systems with in-sensor analytics are feasible for use in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), according to a study published in the March 1 issue of Science.

Ha Uk Chung, from the Simpson Querrey Institute at Northwestern University in Chicago, and colleagues developed a pair of ultrathin, soft, skin-like, wireless, electronic devices that could reproduce the functionality of traditional sensors that are used to monitor systems in the NICU. The sensors are capable of softly and noninvasively interfacing onto neonatal skin.

The researchers established quantitative equivalency to clinical standards in pilot-phase demonstrations on neonates ranging in age from 28 weeks to full term. The systems reduced the risks for skin injury relative to existing clinical standards, with the mechanical interface to the skin governed by van der Waals forces. The systems were encapsulated in silicon, allowing operation when immersed in water and supporting compatibility with NICU incubators. The system was compatible with essential medical imaging, including magnetic resonance imaging.

“Wires are going up to the monitor, down to the baby, maybe going through holes in an incubator,” one coauthor said in a statement. “Nurses and parents try to get the babies all bundled, so they don’t accidentally pull anything off them or out of the wall. It’s very, very cumbersome and stressful. If the baby were totally unencumbered, it would be tremendously more efficient and less prone to problems.”

Several authors are inventors on a patent application; two authors have equity ownership in a company that is pursuing commercialization of the technology described in the study.

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