Anyone who has ever watched a hospital scene on television has likely noticed the large, bulky monitors used to track a patient’s vital signs. A group of engineers and physicians from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have devised a prototype for a handheld device that can deliver that same information and more in a far more portable manner.
The MouthLab device resembles a taser with a mouthpiece from a scuba suit mounted on one end. The user presses their thumb against a pad on the device while using the mouthpiece. The device then takes the body’s temperature and blood volume, while the thumb pad tracks pulse and breathing. Three electrodes perform basic electrocardiogram readings that are also used to track blood pressure. All results are wirelessly displayed on an assigned laptop or smart device.
Lead engineer Gene Fridman describes the MouthLab as a “check engine” light for humans. The intent is that it can be used at home by patients to check their condition or by EMT crews to quickly assess conditions. Since the device uses the mouth to track vital signs, Fridman and his team hope to add enhanced blood, saliva, and breath sensors in later versions. These would track elements like blood glucose and signs of kidney failure or certain cancers.
Since the MouthLab only takes a snapshot of current vitals, it won’t likely fully replace the hospital monitors used to provide continual readings. This has not stopped Fridman from envisioning other uses of the measurements. The final version is anticipated to be capable of a vital reading in less than ten seconds, with future generations being able to deliver readouts without the need for a secondary smart device or laptop. People at home could use the MouthLab with minimal training, then send results to their doctor via cell phone.
In a trial study, published in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering, the MouthLab was found comparable to the vital monitors researchers are seeking to replace with this new diagnostic device.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Fridman, G.Y., et al., “MouthLab: A Tricorder Concept Optimized for Rapid Medical Assessment,” Annals of Biomedical Engineering September 2015; 43(4): 2175–84, doi: 10.1007/s10439-015-1247-1, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25605586.
“MouthLab: Patients’ Vital Signs Are Just a Breath Away,” ScienceDaily web site, August 24, 2015; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150824114557.htm.