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.
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
Implantable transmitter provides wireless option for biomedical devices
04.08.2020 | Purdue University
Certainty in just 15 minutes – researchers develop a graphene oxid based rapid test to detect infections
03.08.2020 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Zuverlässigkeit und Mikrointegration IZM
Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT have come up with a striking new addition to contact stamping technologies in the ERDF research project ScanCut. In collaboration with industry partners from North Rhine-Westphalia, the Aachen-based team of researchers developed a hybrid manufacturing process for the laser cutting of thin-walled metal strips. This new process makes it possible to fabricate even the tiniest details of contact parts in an eco-friendly, high-precision and efficient manner.
Plug connectors are tiny and, at first glance, unremarkable – yet modern vehicles would be unable to function without them. Several thousand plug connectors...
An international research team has found a new approach that may be able to reduce bone loss in osteoporosis and maintain bone health.
Osteoporosis is the most common age-related bone disease which affects hundreds of millions of individuals worldwide. It is estimated that one in three women...
Traditional single-cell sequencing methods help to reveal insights about cellular differences and functions - but they do this with static snapshots only...
“Core-shell” clusters pave the way for new efficient nanomaterials that make catalysts, magnetic and laser sensors or measuring devices for detecting electromagnetic radiation more efficient.
Whether in innovative high-tech materials, more powerful computer chips, pharmaceuticals or in the field of renewable energies, nanoparticles – smallest...
An international research team with Prof. Cornelia Denz from the Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Münster develop for the first time light fields using caustics that do not change during propagation. With the new method, the physicists cleverly exploit light structures that can be seen in rainbows or when light is transmitted through drinking glasses.
Modern applications as high resolution microsopy or micro- or nanoscale material processing require customized laser beams that do not change during...
23.07.2020 | Event News
21.07.2020 | Event News
07.07.2020 | Event News
06.08.2020 | Earth Sciences
06.08.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering
06.08.2020 | Life Sciences