When a baby is placed into a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), its vitals are continuously recorded through electrodes placed on the skin with wires attached to monitoring platforms. Researchers are working to replace the wires with a patch that would allow parents to hold their little one while it's being monitored.

A baby wearing two of the patches developed by the team. (Credit: University of Illinois)

Data is collected through two separate patches on each neonate, generally on the child's back and then either their chest or foot. Since there are multiple data streams, the information must be synchronized before it can be processed and streamed to the monitors. The patch must also allow staff to observe the skin in addition to allowing for x-rays and magnetic resonance images to be taken.

The devices were deployed at the Lori Children Hospital in Chicago on NICU patients whose parents agreed to the research. To make sure they were getting accurate measurements, the patches were placed on neonates who were also hooked up to the conventional wired system to compare the data readings. The patients involved in the research were also surrounded by nurses, neonatologists, and dermatologists to ensure that everything ran smoothly.

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