Non-invasive breathing monitor

A non-invasive instrument to monitor the breathing of very young children with respiratory problems is being developed by researchers in Bristol.


A non-invasive instrument to monitor the breathing of very young children with respiratory problems is being developed by researchers at the University of the West of England (UWE).



Project partners include Bristol University and consultants at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust’s Bristol Royal Hospital for Children and Frenchay Hospital.



Dr Lyndon Smith from UWE’s Machine Vision Lab is the principal investigator, working on developing a system that he claims will revolutionise how breathing is monitored.



‘Currently, young children with breathing problems are usually monitored via a combination of bands strapped around the chest and abdomen that need to be attached to computers to enable doctors and nurses to measure breathing,’ he said. ‘The beauty of the new system is that it will record similar measurements as current equipment without the need to attach various instruments to the child.’



The system will employ a method called dynamic photometric stereo that involves combining a camera with specially positioned lighting to create structured illumination of the body surface.



‘The resulting images will then be processed and analysed to enable the 3D shape of the human torso to be recovered,’ said Smith. ‘Real-time imaging created using structured light helps us to make the effect 4D, which enables us to detect and measure the movements of the chest and abdomen in real time.’



Co-investigator Prof Melvyn Smith, director of the Machine Vision Lab, said: ‘Our system will be eye safe and will provide the higher-resolution measurements needed to model the respiration process.


‘Once the changes in size, shape and volume of the chest have been measured, it will be necessary to develop a model that will relate this to the flow/volume of respired air and respiratory muscle function. Other advantages include the most obvious one: that measurements can be taken in a non-invasive way, without the need to attach instruments to the child that can cause stress,’ he added.



Dr Olena Doran of the UWE Institute of Bio-Sensing Technology has identified additional advantages of the proposed approach: ‘The system will be easy to set up and use, so it will be easy to train clinical practitioners to operate. Also, there will not be as many hygiene issues since the instrument is used remotely.


‘The final advantage is that this instrument uses low-cost readily available technology, which assists with accessibility. Once the tests have been completed, the system could be further developed and made widely available.’