Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Optical sensors make MRI scans safer

Magnetic resonance scans will be safer for children and other patients needing anaesthesia, thanks to new kinds of optical sensors developed by a team of European researchers.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a powerful, non-invasive way of obtaining detailed internal images of the human body. Unlike x-rays, MRI does not use ionising radiation but probes the inside of the body with strong magnetic fields. It has become an indispensable aid to diagnosis and treatment.

But for some people, the experience of MRI can be upsetting. The patient must lie motionless for as much as an hour or more within the tunnel of the MRI machine. Children, especially, can find the experience frightening and the solution is to calm them with sedative or anaesthetic drugs.

“Anaesthesia for MRI examination uses the same drugs as anaesthesia for any surgical procedure,” says Dr Mathieu Jeanne of the Centre Hospitalier Régional Universitaire de Lille, one of the partners in the OFSETH project. “Even if spontaneous respiration can be preserved most of the time during anaesthesia, it is constantly at risk of being impaired by anaesthetic drugs or by upper airway obstruction.”

As the anaesthetist cannot accompany the patient, it is essential that the patient be monitored remotely from the neighbouring control room. Unfortunately, the magnetic fields can interfere with electrical equipment, meaning that conventional electronic sensors cannot be used while patients are having their scan. There is also a risk of burns from electric currents induced in metal components by the strong magnetic field.

Optical solution

One solution, being pursued by the EU-funded OFSETH project, is to use optical sensors and optical fibres. With no metal parts, optical sensors transmit information in the form of light pulses and are not affected by magnetic fields.

OFSETH is developing wearable textiles that incorporate optical monitoring systems. The partners are concentrating on systems suitable for children between 1 and 5 years old that will monitor breathing, heart rate and the amount of oxygen in the blood.

“The light-guiding properties of an optical fibre can change depending on its surrounding environment,” explains Dr François Narbonneau of Multitel, an independent research centre based in Mons which is coordinating the project. “By measuring the constraints applied to an optical fibre or by analysing modifications of the signal properties transmitted in an optical fibre, it is possible to measure a lot of parameters.”

Optical fibres are sensitive to being bent or stretched as this affects the amount of light they transmit. To monitor breathing, the researchers wove a plastic optical fibre into an elastic bandage to be placed around the chest or abdomen. It expands and contracts as the patient breathes and two types of sensor detect the strains in the fibre and so monitor the breathing rate.

The team have also designed a non-invasive blood oxygen sensor that compares the absorption of red and infrared light to gauge how much oxygen is present in the blood. The sensor fits on a finger-tip and detects reflected light from the skin. It measures pulse rate as well.

Although other non-electronic devices can be used to measure vital functions, they can be cumbersome and expensive. And while optical technology is already in use for MRI monitoring, the patient often needs to be switched between two or three different systems as they are moved between different parts of the hospital.

Woven into textiles

The system developed by OFSETH avoids the need for such changes by incorporating the sensors into a garment worn by the patient. Plastic optical fibres are particularly suitable for such applications as they can be woven into the fabric.

“The main innovation is to use optical fibre sensors embedded into textile during the fabrication process for medical applications,” says Narbonneau. “The key idea is to provide a garment which allows monitoring of the patient from arrival at the hospital until departure without changing or disconnecting the monitoring system.”

All the hardware components are now ready and the next phase is to integrate them into a prototype garment which will then be tested in clinical trials. The project is due to finish in August 2009.

The ten partners contributed their expertise on healthcare, optical sensing and textile technology to make the project a reality. The lessons learned can be applied to a much wider range of applications. For example, the team is already planning to use the same sensors to create baby clothes that can be used at home to guard against sudden ‘cot deaths’.

OFSETH is part of SFIT, a cluster of projects to develop ‘smart’ textiles supported by the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme for research. ICT Results will publish in coming weeks a special series of features associated with the SFIT cluster.

Christian Nielsen | alfa
Further information:

Further reports about: MRI OFSETH Oxygen SFIT X-rays anaesthetic drugs heart rate magnetic field magnetic fields

More articles from Medical Engineering:

nachricht Gentle sensors for diagnosing brain disorders
29.09.2016 | King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

nachricht New imaging technique in Alzheimer’s disease - opens up possibilities for new drug development
28.09.2016 | Lund University

All articles from Medical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>