Body- Hugging Elastic Printed Circuit Board Allows Measurement of Heart and Lung Function Directly on the Skin

Cradl project
Image: CRADL project

Scientists at Würth Elektronik Rot am See in collaboration with the Fraunhofer institute of reliability and micro integration in Berlin developed an elastic electronic printed circuit board that might decisively facilitate diagnosis of illnesses, especially in newborns.

Würth Elektronik is a partner in the Innovation World Cup Series.

The TWINflex-Stretch PCB integrated into a belt made by Swisstom AG is applied to the skin to measure the babies’ heart and lung function in a gentle way, without surgery. The dynamic images produced by the system is monitored by the doctor. Utilization of radiological medical application is not necessary.

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Each year 15 million babies are born prematurely and many suffer from respiratory failure due to immaturity of the lung and lack of control of breathing.

Electrical impedance tomography (EIT) is an inexpensive and non-radiative technique that can monitor lung aeration in real time, and according to recent studies, it is effective in monitoring aeration in preterm babies.

The development of the belt was part of the EU-project CRADL (Continuous Regional Analysis Device for neonate Lung).

“The CRADL project is a project that’s aiming to get EIT as a monitoring tool, said Anton van Kaam, Professor of Neonatalogy at Emma Children’s Hospital, Amsterdam University Medical Centers, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. “The greater device is only a small textile band. The information that we’re mainly interested in is how the aeriation of the lung is.”

Cradl project
Image: CRADL project

The innovation is based on the use of a new base material for the PCB production: polyurethane. Dr. Jan Kostelnik, head of Würth Elektronik’s R&D department is certain that the medical sector might become a predominant application field for this material.

The elastic printed circuit is currently used in instrument for monitoring lung and heart function developed by Swisstom AG. Now, thanks to the elastic and skin-friendly material – measuring is possible not only for adults, but also for infants.

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“The electric impedance tomography is a supervision method free of radiation, radiograms become redundant,” emphasizes Dr. Jan Kostelnik.

Swisstom COO Guido Schelling explains:

“Swisstom products are based on the principle of electric impedance tomography. The electric impedance tomography (EIT) is an imaging process method for intensive care medics, pulmonologists and physiotherapists, providing real-time information about local respiration. Thus, EIT allows for continuous deployment and monitoring of the treatment’s effectivity, real-time and directly at the patient’s bedside. In our view, there is no alternative to electric impedance tomography for infants at present.”