Novel wearable captures body sounds for vital health monitoring

23rd November 2023
Paige West

Researchers from Northwestern University have developed new wearable devices that offers continuous monitoring of vital bodily sounds.

Funded by a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, these devices adhere softly to the skin, tracking subtle changes in the body's sounds across various regions. The study, published in Nature Medicine on November 16th, marks a significant advancement in health monitoring technology.

In pilot studies involving 15 premature babies with respiratory and intestinal issues and 55 adults, including 20 with chronic lung diseases, the devices demonstrated clinical-grade accuracy and introduced functionalities unprecedented in research or clinical care.

John A. Rogers, a bioelectronics pioneer at Northwestern, led the device development. He stated: “Currently, there are no existing methods for continuously monitoring and spatially mapping body sounds at home or in hospital settings. We developed a new strategy for monitoring patients in real-time on a continuous basis and without encumbrances associated with rigid, wired, bulky technology.”

The devices, encapsulated in soft silicone, feature high-performance digital microphones and accelerometers, creating a comprehensive non-invasive sensing network. They capture sounds associated with lung function, cardiac rhythm, and gastrointestinal activity, providing a spatial map of these processes.

The study also explored the application of these devices in adults, especially those with chronic lung diseases. The sensors allowed for detailed analysis of lung sound distribution and body motions, aiding physicians in assessing lung function more precisely.

Bharat added: “By continuously monitoring these sounds in real time, we can determine if lung health is getting better or worse and evaluate how well a patient is responding to a particular medication or treatment. Then we can personalise treatments to individual patients.”

The research, part of the Querrey-Simpson Institute for Bioelectronics at Northwestern University, opens new avenues for continuous physiological monitoring, potentially revolutionising patient care in various medical settings.

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