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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Web-enabled system to help remote monitoring of asthma

By IANS, Bangalore, Aug 26 - An inexpensive web-enabled device for monitoring lung function in asthma patients and other disorders is being developed by researchers and co-workers here.

The device would allow physicians to track patients remotely and promptly initiate medical attention in an emergency, the researchers said.

Texas Instruments researcher N.C.S. Ramachandran, an expert in high-speed and low-power digital design, is working on the project with professor of electrical engineering Vivek Agarwal of the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai.

They are jointly developing an inexpensive and easy to operate spirometer that can be quickly hooked up to the Internet through built-in web and data encryption software. Their findings have been published in the International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology.

Spirometers measures lung capacity and response of breathing during therapy. However, their use is limited in the developing world and in remote regions because of the prohibitive cost of the instrument and a lack of healthcare workers trained in their use.

The team has developed the device as a low-cost, portable spirometer built around a pressure sensor for detecting airflow. The sensor is fabricated using technology similar to that of manufacturing computer chips and is based on a microelectromechanical system -.

The MEMS spirometer can measures the flow and volume of air moving in and out of the patient's lungs. Mass production of the MEMS sensor can slash costs.

Simply monitoring cough and wheezing in asthma sufferers does not always provide an accurate assessment of the severity of their symptoms.

Breathing tests carried out using a spirometer, on the other hand, are much more accurate and can provide a clear indication of whether or not medication is being effective.

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