Related Science

October 16, 2007 at 9:04 am | Posted in News, Technical | Leave a comment

You might not realize it, but you’re probably familiar with lots of ways we use Radio Frequency waves to collect data. RADAR, for example, is actually an acronym for RAdio Detection And Ranging.

I mention this because we’re one step closer to  ‘Scan the vessel for life signs, Mr. Spock.’ Kai Sensors has made a product called the “LifeReader” which can detect heartbeats and respiration using doppler radar.  Of course this has lots of very cool applications, because it can detect normal and abnormal cardiac activity. If your heart is screwing up, you want to know about it right away, right? This is particularly true in case of heart attack, when time equals muscle.

I work out a lot, so the first thing that springs to mind for me are some of the older people huffing and puffing at the gym. Wouldn’t it be great if gyms could detect the onset of a heart attack, or dangerous arrhythmia? I guess that doesn’t just apply to old people; there have been a few recent tragedies among kids with undiagnosed heart conditions playing high school sports.

About 7 million high school students play sports, and about 20 die each year from injuries, heat or undiagnosed heart conditions, according to the National Association of State Boards of Education.

“If there are no symptoms – if a kid is training, working out, tolerating all the high-level exercise – I don’t think too many experts would say get the EKG, get the ultrasound of the heart, get the stress test,” said Dr. Federico Vaca, director of UC Irvine’s Center for Trauma and Injury Prevention Research. “The expenditure is going to be so high, and the potential of finding something is so small.”

A combination of doppler sensors and defibrillators on-hand might help? I hope?

I think this technology would be especially valuable in hospital rehabilitation facilities. I’d love to see them develop a SIDS-detecting crib, which goes off if the baby stops breathing.  Vital monitoring for the elderly would be a great comfort, too.

Of course, the initial funds will be from the military, who will use the technology to detect life signs in the next room.

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