Wireless, skin-like sensors monitor baby heart rate, respiration, temperature, blood pressure

John Rogers and Northwestern colleagues have developed soft, flexible, battery-free, wireless, skin-like sensors to replace multi wire-based sensors that currently monitor babies in hospitals’ neonatal intensive care units.  The goal is to enable more accurate monitoring, and unobstructed physical bonding.

The dual wireless sensors monitor heart rate, respiration rate and body temperature — from opposite ends of the body. One sensor lies across the chest or back, and the other wraps around a foot. This allows physicians to gather an infant’s core temperature as well as body temperature from a peripheral region.

Physicians also can measure blood pressure by continuously tracking when the pulse leaves the heart and arrives at the foot. Currently, there is not a good way to collect a reliable blood pressure measurement. A blood pressure cuff can bruise or damage an infant’s fragile skin. The other option is to insert a catheter into an artery, which is tricky because of the slight diameter of a premature newborn’s blood vessels. It also introduces a risk of infection, clotting and death.

The device also could help fill in information gaps that exist during skin-to-skin contact. The sensors also can be worn during X-rays, MRIs and CT scans.

Click to view Northwestern video