The medical device industry may be on the verge of creating
Band-Aidô-sized wearable devices capable of performing electrocardiograms (ECGs)
and monitoring blood pressure, respiration and body temperature.
at the Medical Design
& Manufacturing West conference held in Anaheim, CA this week, introduced
ECG-on-a-chip technology and said other chip-based medical measurements are
already possible. Several electronics companies at the show also said they're
working with medical device manufacturers on developing over-the-counter
products that could use the technology and be available in the next 12-18
what people are looking for," said Patrick O'Doherty, vice president of the
Healthcare Segment for Analog Devices Inc. "This technology will be clipped on
peoples' belts and go inside Band-Aids."
MD&D show, Analog Devices rolled out the ADAS1000
ECG analog front end, which reduces a conventional 4 x 6 inch ECG printed
circuit board containing 50 components into a single silicon chip. Similarly, Belgium-based
Imec showed off its ECG chip,
which is already being employed in the company's ECG necklace. Those two
companies were joined by Texas Instruments, which rolled out its ECG-capable
analog front end last year.
The new breed of ECG chips is expected to
enable development of products that are radically different from anything
that's been available previously. With the chips, engineers expect to be able
to incorporate ECG capabilities in a small stickable bandage containing an ECG
chip, a wireless transceiver and four or five electrodes. Such products would
eliminate the jumble of criss-crossed wires often associated with ECGs because
they would send their information wirelessly.
get an electrocardiogram won't need to be wrapped up in leads anymore,"
technology receives widespread adoption, it would also open the door to a
multitude of other possibilities. Temperatures, for example, could be taken by stickable
bandages. The same would hold for blood pressure measurements, pacemaker pulse
detection and respiration. The technology might also be used to alert
individuals whose hearts have gone into atrial fibrillation.
As yet, no Band-Aid-sized
ECGs have been deployed in the marketplace. For an entire system, engineers
need to add a wireless transceiver, microcontroller or DSP (digital signal
processor), and associated analog components. ADI engineers said, however, that
medical OEMs are working on the bandage-sized technology today, and such
products could be introduced soon.
raises the bar," said Tony Zarola, strategic marketing manager for ADI's
Healthcare Segment. "It definitely gives us a line of sight to a deployable system."