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Noninvasive Headset Device Measures Vital Parameters from Ear Canal

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 30 Jun 2022
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Image: Patented device measures temperature and other vital parameters from ear canal (Photo courtesy of Eurac Research)
Image: Patented device measures temperature and other vital parameters from ear canal (Photo courtesy of Eurac Research)

In emergency situations, such as when the victim is suspected to be hypothermic, knowing their core temperature as accurately as possible is essential for proper triage, but this information is not always easy to obtain – current thermometers are not accurate enough, especially in harsh environmental conditions, and the probes used in hospitals, for example the esophageal one, most often cannot be inserted in the field. Moreover, victims are often uncooperative, spaces uncomfortable and the equipment one can carry very limited, such as during a helicopter rescue or the scene of a car accident. Now, a patented space-saving, noninvasive and easy-to-use instrument that measures core temperature as well as oxygen saturation and heart rate from the ear canal could provide a solution to this problem.

Eurac Research (Bolzano, Italy) has conceived MedSENS – an instrument that looks like a headset for listening to music and uses sensors placed in the external ear canal to measure various vital parameters. MedSENS consists of a probe about the size of an ear-plug, which contains innovative measuring sensors; the rescuer pushes it into the victim’s ear, then covers it with an outer ear pad that insulates against heat and cold and incorporates a small screen that shows the measured values in real time. In addition to body temperature, MedSENS also measures heart rate and oxygen saturation and gives a complete picture of essential vital parameters. The data can then be sent wirelessly to any other device connected by rescue teams.

The instrument was tested for more than a year and underwent countless adjustments. Two rounds of experiments involving a total of 40 people took place in the terraXcube extreme environment simulator. During simulations of interventions between -10 and 20 °C, rescue workers had to apply the device; the ‘victims’ were monitored both through MedSENS and a traditional esophageal probe which had previously been inserted in the ambulatory.

“Our tests had a double purpose,” explained Alessandro Micarelli, an otolaryngologist and researcher at Eurac Research. “On the one hand, to test whether the use of the instrument was easy even, for example, with hands affected by the biting cold; on the other, to verify that MedSENS measurements were in agreement with those of the in-depth probes previously inserted.”

“Thanks to the experience of some of us in mountain rescue and emergency service, we knew we wanted a noninvasive and easy-to-use instrument that combined temperature measurement with oxygen saturation measurement,” said Michela Masè, a physicist and researcher at Eurac Research. “There are already devices on the market that can be inserted into the ear, but they are too sensitive to external temperature and therefore not reliable so that’s where we started from.”

Related Links:
Eurac Research 


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