New cameras capable of medically monitoring premature babies in incubators has been developed as part of the Swiss research program Nano-Tera.
The system is about to be tested at University Hospital Zurich, or USZ-CH, and was developed by EPFL, CSEM and USZ to potentially replace skin sensors on premature infants in neonatal incubators in neonatal intensive care units.
The camera system was created to improve the way infants’ heart rates and breathing are monitored.
“Skin sensors placed on the babies’ chests are so sensitive that they generate false alarms up to 90 percent of the time, mainly caused by the babies moving around,” Dr. Jean-Claude Fauchere, a doctor at USZ’s neonatal clinic, says in a press release. “This is a source of discomfort for the babies, because we have to check on them every time. It’s also a significant stress factor for nurses and a poor use of their time — it distracts them from managing real emergencies and can affect quality of care.”
The cameras are able to detect a baby’s pulse by analyzing skin color, which changes slightly every time the heart beats. Breathing is monitored by measuring movements of the thorax and shoulders. Infrared cameras take over at night to continue the monitoring without stopping.
The camera’s optical system is sensitive enough to detect minute changes in skin color and uses algorithms to process data in real time.
“We ran an initial study on a group of adults, where we looked at a defined patch of skin on their foreheads,” says Sibylle Fallet, a doctoral student at EPFL. “With our algorithms we can track this area when the person moves, isolate the skin pixels and use minor changes in their color to determine the pulse. The tests showed that the cameras produced practically the same results as conventional sensors.”
The cameras will be tested on premature babies at the University Hospital Zurich.