Image of stretchable electronics

A wireless, wearable monitor built with stretchable electronics could allow comfortable, long-term health monitoring of adults, babies, and small children without concern for skin injury or allergic reactions caused by conventional adhesive sensors with conductive gels.

The soft and conformable monitor can broadcast electrocardiogram (ECG), heart rate, respiratory rate, and motion activity data as much as 15 meters to a portable recording device such as a smartphone or tablet computer. The electronics are mounted on a stretchable substrate and connected to gold, skin-like electrodes through printed connectors that can stretch with the medical film in which they are embedded.

“This health monitor has a key advantage for young children who are always moving, since the soft conformal device can accommodate that activity with a gentle integration onto the skin,” said Woon-Hong Yeo, an assistant professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “This is designed to meet the electronic health monitoring needs of people whose sensitive skin may be harmed by conventional monitors.”

Because the device conforms to the skin, it avoids signal issues that can be created by the motion of the typical metal-gel electrodes across the skin. The device can even obtain accurate signals from a person who is walking, running, or climbing stairs.

Continuous evaluation with a wireless health monitor could improve the assessment of children and help clinicians identify trends earlier, potentially facilitating intervention before a condition progresses, said Dr. Kevin Maher, a pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

“The generation of continuous data from the respiratory and cardiovascular systems could allow for the application of advanced diagnostics to detect changes in clinical status, response to therapies, and implementation of early intervention,” Maher said. “A device to literally follow every breath a child takes could allow for early recognition and intervention prior to a more severe presentation of a disease.”

Used in the home, a wearable monitor might detect changes that might not otherwise be apparent, he said. In clinical settings, the wireless device could allow children to feel less “tethered” to equipment. “I see this device as a significant change in pediatric health care and am excited to partner with Georgia Tech on the project,” Maher added.

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