November 18, 2015

A new way to monitor vital signs

This ingestible electronic device invented at MIT can measure heart rate and
respiratory rate from inside the gastrointestinal tract.
Image: Albert Swiston/MIT Lincoln Laboratory

(November 18, 2015)  Ingestible sensor measures heart and breathing rates from within the digestive tract.

Using technology invented at MIT, doctors may one day be able to monitor patients’ vital signs by having them swallow an ingestible electronic device that measures heart rate and breathing rate from within the gastrointestinal tract.

This type of sensor could make it easier to assess trauma patients, monitor soldiers in battle, perform long-term evaluation of patients with chronic illnesses, or improve training for professional and amateur athletes, the researchers say.

The new sensor calculates heart and breathing rates from the distinctive sound waves produced by the beating of the heart and the inhalation and exhalation of the lungs.

Researchers explain how their technology could be used to monitor vital signs from
within the GI tract. Video: Melanie Gonick/MIT (animation and additional imagery courtesy of
Diana Saville, Albert Swiston, and Giovanni Traverso)

“Through characterization of the acoustic wave, recorded from different parts of the GI tract, we found that we could measure both heart rate and respiratory rate with good accuracy,” says Giovanni Traverso, a research affiliate at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and one of the lead authors of a paper describing the device in the Nov. 18 issue of the journal PLOS One.

The paper’s other lead author is Gregory Ciccarelli, an associate staff member at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. Senior authors are Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT and a member of the Koch Institute, and Albert Swiston, a technical staff member at Lincoln Laboratory.

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