Necklace Monitors Care of Low-Birth-Weight Infants

A necklace that monitors care of preterm low-birth weight infants.

Image credits: Columbia University

Since 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) has advised Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC), which entails a newborn and caregiver making skin-to-skin contact on the chest, for low-birth-weight (LBW) infants, including those who are full-term and preterm. According to the WHO's 2023 report, it has been demonstrated to lower neonatal death by 32%, and as a result, it has become the global standard of care for newborns with low birth weights.

Even while most mothers are content to carry their babies close to their chest for extended periods of time, mothers who practice KMC might still question whether they should be holding on for longer. Here's where Joey enters the picture.

Developed by Assoc. Prof. Xia Zhou and colleagues at Columbia University, the device is worn like a necklace by the mother. She places a tiny piece of electrically conductive fabric between the infant's bare chest and her own bare chest, reports NewAtlas.

The two electrocardiogram (ECG) sensors in that patch, one on each side, track the electrical activity of the mother's and the baby's hearts, respectively. The mother's back has an electronics module hardwired to it, which evaluates and wirelessly sends the ECG data to a nearby smartphone app.

The software recognizes the presence of an effective KMC session as long as it is able to monitor ECG readings from both users, which is what the Joey does. The app notifies the mother if it finds that additional KMC time is needed.

The device can also distinguish between the mother's and the infant's ECG signals in addition to filtering out background "noise" caused by body movements. This implies that it can keep an ongoing eye on the baby's heart rate and breathing rate. Once more, the app notifies the mother if either of these deviate from normal ranges.

Read more Wellysis ECG Patch Hits US, Indian Markets

The Joey demonstrated an average accuracy of 96% in measuring KMC duration when tested on 35 caregivers and their infants. Additionally, it offered vital-sign readings with an accuracy deemed clinically acceptable.

"I am very excited about our findings because they demonstrate the promising potential of physiological sensing using everyday conductive fabrics, a ubiquitous and natural sensing medium," said PhD student Shao Qijia Shao, lead author of a paper on the study. "The comfort and ease of wear of these soft, sensing materials offer a significant advantage over rigid, adhesive sensors, which have been the mainstream methods for physiological sensing."

Sam Draper
June 13, 2024

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