Using radio signals to prevent heart failure

Oct 01, 2010
The reader device supplies the heart pressure sensor with energy. It also receives the measurement data, thereby providing doctors with information about potential cardiac malfunctions. (© Fraunhofer IMS)

Increased pressure in the heart is a warning sign - it may indicate heart failure. In the future, a battery-less miniature sensor implanted in a patient’s heart could be used to transmit on-demand cardiac pressure readings to their attending physician.

Different parts of the heart have different functions: The right side keeps the pulmonary circulation going, while the left pumps oxygen-enriched blood around the body. Increased pressure in the left chamber of the heart may be an indication of or .

Until now, has been the traditional method of measuring this pressure. In this procedure, the investigating doctor punctures an artery in the groin and inserts a , then injects a contrast medium which enables him to trace the catheter’s path to the heart on an X-ray screen and monitor cardiac activity. The patient lies quietly and unmoving in bed for the duration, and the pressure in the heart chamber can only be measured over that same period of time.

Clearly, longer-term measurements under various loading conditions would be considerably more informative, and now an innovative system promises to allow precisely that.

The Duisburg-based (Germany) Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems IMS will be exhibiting the system at the electronica trade fair in Munich, from November 9 through 12, 2010. The new pressure sensor delivers up to 200 measurements a second. For the sake of comparison, the heart of an averagely fit adult will beat three to four times a second under extreme loading. “This means even the smallest malfunction of the heart will be revealed. And particularly in the initial stages of illness, these tend to occur only sporadically,” says Dr. Gerd vom Bögel, group manager at the IMS.

The rod-shaped sensor, which is 2 millimeters by 10 millimeters in size, is attached to the wall of the heart with the aid of a catheter. When the catheter is withdrawn, the sensor remains in situ. If necessary, it will deliver pressure data over a period of several months. That said, it transmits solely on demand: Just like a passive RFID transponder, the sensor only operates when its associated reader device supplies it with energy - via an inductive antenna coupling. The sensor does not require a battery, rechargeable or otherwise. An output of 90 microwatts is sufficient to take a pressure measurement and transmit the reading across a distance of up to 40 centimeters. Since the sensor and its integrated antenna can only be positioned longitudinally in the heart, it must be read laterally, on the side of the ribcage. In order to minimize attenuation of the signal by bone, body tissues and liquids, the system transmits in the 10 MHz range. It is encapsulated in a biocompatible polymer shell which, unlike metal, does not block radio waves, but allows them to pass.

The Duisberg researchers have also developed a new low-loss transmission process, as vom Bögel explains: “The load modulation that is used for passive RFID transponders deliberately destroys a portion of the transmitted energy in order to encode the transmitted information. We use that portion of energy, which is usually lost, as transmission energy, and thus achieve significantly longer ranges.”

This new form of frequency conversion could also improve the performance of other RFID systems operating in the 10 MHz range - for example in the logistics sphere, when it comes to automatic identification and tracking of gas canisters or hazardous liquid containers. But vom Bögel cautions: “At the moment, we’re concentrating solely on medical applications.” In order to make their heart pressure sensor even more efficient, the IMS researchers now want to optimize the design of the chip which contains both the sensor and the radio unit.

Explore further: Novel marker discovered for stem cells derived from human umbilical cord blood

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sensor in artery measures blood pressure

Jan 05, 2009

( -- High blood pressure can be a trial of patience for doctors and for sufferers, whose blood pressure often has to be monitored over a long time until it can be regulated. This will now be made ...

Pressure sensors on alert

Mar 24, 2010

Vacuum panels are particularly good for insulating buildings -- as long as the vacuum does not leak. A tiny pressure sensor constantly checks the condition of the vacuum and indicates whether the insulation ...

Pressure sensors in the eye

Sep 03, 2007

Sensors can monitor production processes, unmask tiny cracks in aircraft hulls, and determine the amount of laundry in a washing machine. In future, they will also be used in the human body and raise the alarm ...

RFIDs transmit through metal

Feb 02, 2009

( -- Metal efficiently blocks radiation, such as that emitted by RFID chips - small data storage units that are integrated in various objects and transmit their information to a reading device. ...

Recommended for you

New pain relief targets discovered

1 hour ago

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

Building 'smart' cell-based therapies

1 hour ago

A Northwestern University synthetic biology team has created a new technology for modifying human cells to create programmable therapeutics that could travel the body and selectively target cancer and other ...

Proper stem cell function requires hydrogen sulfide

4 hours ago

Stem cells in bone marrow need to produce hydrogen sulfide in order to properly multiply and form bone tissue, according to a new study from the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

New pain relief targets discovered

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

Study recalculates costs of combination vaccines

One of the most popular vaccine brands for children may not be the most cost-effective choice. And doctors may be overlooking some cost factors when choosing vaccines, driving the market toward what is actually a more expensive ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

( —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

Two recent papers by a University of Colorado School of Medicine researcher and colleagues may help scientists develop treatments or vaccines for Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and other ...