The top medical sensors that could reshape modern medicine
From AI assisting in diagnosis to 3D-printing scaffolds and prosthetics, technology has had a considerable impact on healthcare. As IoT technology has grown, the effectiveness and availability of medical sensors that can assist in preventive care and monitoring, and treating existing conditions, have grown. These medical sensors allow patients to go longer periods of time between visits to the doctor and spend more time out in the world rather than at home or in a hospital where they have access to monitoring equipment.
BOSS takes a look at the most innovative medical sensors that could have a considerable impact on those who use them and the healthcare sector at large.
Dissolvable Brain Sensors
According to the CDC, traumatic brain injury (TBI) contributes to the deaths of more than 50,000 people in the US every year. TBI can cause swelling in the brain that can restrict the flow of blood and oxygen, causing permanent brain damage. Doctors and surgeons need to monitor intracranial pressure during recovery to make sure swelling doesn’t occur.
Bioresorbable silicon electronic sensors such as those developed by Rogers Research Group at Northwestern University can be implanted in the brain to measure pressure without the use of big pieces of equipment. Better yet, the extremely thin circuits can provide accurate readings until they are absorbed into the body after a few days — no surgery required for removal.
A big concern for doctors is patients not taking their prescribed medicine properly. Ingestible medical sensors are swallowed in conjunction with prescription medication and release a signal to another wearable sensor that communicates to a smartphone app. Doctors can track whether patients are taking their medicine properly, improve the prescription as necessary, and have an open dialogue with patients regarding the medication.
In 2017, the FDA approved ABILIFY MYCITE®, a collaboration between Otsuka Pharmaceutical and Proteus Digital Health. The product is a combination of Otsuka’s aripiprazole antipsychotic tablets and Proteus’ Ingestible Event Marker sensor that communicates with the MYCITE® patch and app. Proteus is also working on combining the MYCITE® system with drugs used for treatment of hypertension and Type 2 diabetes.
Inhalers are the most common and effective way for people to treat asthma. However, a 2017 study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) showed that only 12 percent of the participants used their inhaler properly. Misuse leads to wasting the medicine and an over-dependence on the inhaler.
Propeller created a sensor that can be attached to any inhaler and tracks medication usage, including the dosage and the date and time it was taken. Data is displayed for the patient and doctor in easy-to-read reports displaying weather conditions and other triggers that should be avoided to help better manage asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Smart Contact Lenses
Glaucoma is an eye condition that can lead to permanent vision loss due to pressure in the eye that damages the optic nerve. With the amount of intraocular pressure changing throughout the day as it responds to stress and bodily behavior, it is hard for doctors to get an accurate idea of glaucoma patients’ eye pressure when the tests are at one point in time. Wearable medical sensors in the form of smart contact lenses are important in that regard.
The FDA-approved SENSIMED Triggerfish® is a smart contact lens that is worn day and night, providing doctors data on their patients’ eyes throughout the day. Such information helps doctors more accurately diagnose the stage of glaucoma and prescribe appropriate treatment ranging from eye drops to laser treatment or surgery.
Head and Neck Cancer Treatment
Head and neck cancer (HNC) causes swelling and ulcers in mucous glands, affecting the throat, salivary glands, nose, larynx, lips, and mouth. As a result, HNC patients have extreme difficulty swallowing and often suffer from dehydration. In fact, nearly one third of HNC patients require emergency room visits during radiation therapy due to dehydration.
CYCORE (Cyberinfrastructure for Comparative Effectiveness Research) is a joint research effort by UC San Diego, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham that is seeking to prevent cases of dehydration among HNC patients. The CYCORE system uses medical sensors to measure and report factors such as weight, blood pressure, and pulse to determine whether a patient is at-risk for dehydration. If such a determination is made by a doctor evaluating the data, the administration of intravenous fluid is scheduled.
Although there are concerns about digitizing and sharing sensitive health information, the lines of communication opened between patient and doctor through the proper use of medical sensors, as well as the freedom it provides patients between visits to the doctor, outweigh those concerns in many cases. In an increasingly connected world, more medical sensors that aid in the treatment and prevention of a wide variety of ailments are to be expected and embraced.