Gel-Free ECG Sensor Monitors Heart Health

A team of researchers from RMIT developed a wearable ECG that can help with cardiovascular illness.

Image credits: Seamus Daniel, RMIT University

By warning users to seek medical attention, ECGs help control cardiovascular disease, which affects almost 4 million Australians and claims the lives of about 100 people every day.

An RMIT University-led team has developed a wearable electrocardiogram (ECG) device that may be utilized in ambulatory care and remote healthcare settings to help individuals with cardiovascular illness avoid heart attacks. The RMIT device weighs only 10 grams, in contrast to the several hundred grams that most wearable ECG monitors usually weigh.

The study was published in the journal AIP Applied Physics Reviews.

Lead author PhD scholar Peter Elango from RMIT said heart attacks often occurred with little or no warning, as signals were difficult to spot without continuous monitoring.

“Nearly half of the people who have heart attacks do not realize what’s happening until it’s too late,” Elango said.

“My dream is a world with zero preventable heart attacks.”

Because gold is extremely conductive, biocompatible, and chemically inert, the researchers decided to utilize it as the material for their dry electrode. Their electrodes had a significant surface area-to-volume ratio and were lightweight due to the incorporation of thin gold sheets, which helped with the efficient capture of ECG data. They tried a number of different shapes before deciding on a hexagonal pattern because it better conforms to the skin's natural curves and records ECG signals, reports NewAtlas.

Compared to existing wearable ECG monitors, which usually weigh several hundred grams, the device weighs only 10 g (0.3 oz). The researchers discovered that only three of their ultra-thin electrodes could adequately monitor a person's heart, compared to the usual ECG's twelve electrodes. The precision of the dry electrodes was comparable to that of a conventional 12-lead ECG.

“The dry electrodes, which are less than one-tenth the width of a human hair, are highly sensitive to the cardiac signals of the user,” said Peter Elango, lead and corresponding author of the study.

Related: ChatGPT's Knowledge of Heart Disease Prevention

The electrodes are Bluetooth-enabled wireless devices that connect to an ECG machine. Additionally, they can be applied to parts of the body that you wouldn't normally put them on, such as the back of the neck, which offers benefits despite being uncommon.

The researchers hope to employ their wearable dry electrodes as a preventive medical device as well as in ambulatory care and remote healthcare settings. They can be incorporated into wearable textiles for long-term cardiac monitoring, in addition to being utilized as a stand-alone device.

Sam Draper
November 8, 2023

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