A spirometer is a device used mainly by respiratory physicians to diagnose and objectively monitor the lung function of patients suffering from common conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and cystic fibrosis. Traditionally, this device works via a differential pressure transducer to determine the flow and thus the amount of air that is exhaled as the patient breathes into the machine. The recent announcement of SpirosmartTM by the University of Washington Department of Medicine and Seattle Children’s Hospital has been a pivotal step towards the management of chronic lung conditions.
SpirosmartTM is a mobile phone based system that extrapolates lung function using the in-built microphone. As the user inhales and exhales within a hands-breadth away from the mobile device, the software estimates the lung function measurements via a set of complicated algorithms involving the resonance frequencies of the user’s vocal tract. Initial pilot studies by the development team involving 52 patients have shown a mean error of 5.1% compared to a clinical spirometer. The current cost of the software is still under wraps, however due to its portability and ease of use, this device may be a breath of fresh air to home monitoring of chronic lung conditions and detecting exacerbations before they become worse.
The effects of suboptimal maternal haemoglobin levels on perinatal outcome have been well studied in numerous cohorts around the world. Child-bearing women who are anaemic (defined as a haemoglobin level of less than 11 grams per decilitre) are at risk of preterm delivery, having babies of low birth weight, neonatal APGAR scores of less than 5 at 1 minute and most significantly are at increased risk of fetal death in utero. The prevalence of anemia (most commonly iron deficiency anemia) is highest among pregnant women due to the increasing demands of the growing fetus. It has been estimated that 49% of pregnant women and 45% of children under five are affected by iron-deficiency anemia, which equates to approximately 150,000 maternal and 700,000 newborn deaths annually.
A group of biomedical engineering undergraduate students at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, America have possibly contrived the solution for global maternal anemia: Hemoglobe, which is a non-invasive device connected to a mobile phone to estimate the haemoglobin level of the user. With the burgeoning use of mobile phone devices amongst health care workers in remote locations around the globe, the detection of pregnant mothers with anaemia is a close reality with field testing of this new device planned for communities in Kenya early next year. Hemoglobe functions by the principle of absorption spectrophotometry: the sensor is placed over the patient’s fingertip and different wavelengths of light are emitted, which are then absorbed by the red blood cells in the capillaries. The device then measures the degree of light absorption and this transmits to a program on the mobile device to calculate the haemoglobin level.
Estimated costs to produce the device are around the vicinity of US 10 to 20 dollars. The technology is not new as other medical device companies such as Masimo have developed similar devices, however the software connected to the HemoGlobe will also send an automated message to a clinical centre. Thus health workers are able to determine which areas have the highest prevalence and direct resources accordingly from something as simple as iron supplementation to expediting a review at the nearest clinic. As one of the developers Greenbaum states, the technology is now functional, but: “now, we have a greater challenge: to prove that it can have a real impact by detecting anemia and making sure the mothers get the care they need.”
 Mason, Rivers and Helwig. “Recent trends in malnutrition in developing regions: Vitamin A deficiencies, anemia, iodine deficiency, and child underweight,” Food and Nutrition Bulletin 26: 57-162, 2005.
 Tamrat T. ‘Special delivery: an analysis of mHealth in maternal and newborn health programs and their outcomes around the world.’ Maternal Child Health Journal. 2011 Jun. (online)
GE healthcare in partnership with AirStrip Technologies have recently announced the launch of Airstrip PATIENT MONITORING(TM), which is a software tool that allows live-streaming of critical patient data to a physician’s iPad or iPhone.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the formation of coagulated blood in one of the deep venous systems of the lower limbs, which is usually instigated by venous stasis, already-present endothelial damage of the veins and a predisposition to hypercoagulability. Despite the many advances in pharmacological prophylaxis for post-surgical DVT, it still remains a highly prevalent problem with an annual incidence of 80 cases per 100,000 and up to 50% causing life-threatening pulmonary embolism (PE). Furthermore, with the use of pharmacological prophylaxis, there is a need to balance out immediate post-surgical haemorrhage with the formation of DVT.
You’re the general surgical registrar on overnight and a patient with non-specific abdominal pain presents to the emergency department. There are no ultrasound machines available for your use, you need to reach a diagnosis, and computed tomography is out of the question seeing the patient is young…..
Stethoscopes have come a long way since their invention in France by René Laennec in 1816, from the crude, trumpet-like device to those now with built-in cardiac sound recognition software. Mobisante, a Washington-based medical technology company, has invented the potential “successor” to the stethoscope: MobiUSTM a portable ultrasound probe coupled with a smartphone.