Following surgery, a physician generally listens to the abdomen of a patient for signs of digestion before allowing that patient to be fed, in order to avoid a condition called post-operative ileus, a malfunction of the intestines. Dr. Brennan Spiegel, a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, and his team worked with researchers at the UCLA Wireless Health Institute at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science to develop a non-invasive acoustic gastrointestinal surveillance biosensor called AbStats, which resembles a small plastic cap and has a tiny microphone inside to monitor digestion.

In this study, the biosensor was used to listen to sounds emanating from the intestines and was connected to a computer that measured the rate of acoustic intestinal movement as they occurred.

This disposable, plastic listening device that attaches to the abdomen may help doctors definitively determine which post-operative patients should be fed and which should not, which could help shorten hospital stays, according to a UCLA study.

If proven successful, the device could also be used to help diagnose irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, they said.