An inexpensive web-enabled device for measuring lung function in patients with asthma and other disorders is being developed by a researcher at Texas Instruments in Bangalore.
Simply monitoring coughing and wheezing in asthma sufferers does not always provide an accurate assessment of the severity of their symptoms. Breathing tests carried out using a spirometer, on the other hand, are much more accurate and can provide a clear indication of whether or not medication is being effective.
However, the widespread application of spirometers is limited in the developing world because of the high cost of the instrument and a lack of specialist healthcare workers trained in its use.
For that reason, Texas Instruments’ researcher, N.C.S. Ramachandran, is working with Vivek Agarwal, professor of electrical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, to build an inexpensive and easy-to-operate spirometer that can be quickly hooked up to an internet connection.
The spirometer will be built around a MEMS pressure sensor that detects airflow and can measure the flow and volume of air moving in and out of the patient’s lungs.The use of mass production techniques for making the MEMS sensor means the device will be inexpensive, small and portable.
Embedding the necessary electronics and software into the spirometer built around the sensor will allow it to be connected to a computer and the internet, allowing physicians to monitor patients remotely and provide medical assistance in an emergency.