A smart shirt that measures lung function and measures data directly to a mobile app can help people follow deadly lung diseases.
A test with the innovative top – which patients say is comfortable – discovered that it was just as accurate in registering lung activity as traditional tests.
Scientists say the technology can be used to monitor patients remotely and save them countless trips to the hospital.
The shirt, which can be worn under everyday clothing, feel how the fabric stretches as the wearer's chest expands and contracts.
Known as Hexoskin, it uses these measurements to calculate the volume of air in and out of the lungs.
A smart shirt known as Hexoskin – which measures lung function and ping data directly to a mobile app – can help people with fatal lung diseases check
The shirt, which is already being used by professional athletes and sports teams, can also record the heartbeat and movements of a wearer.
Researchers say it can be used to monitor patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) for early signs that their condition is deteriorating.
COPD is a collective name for a collection of conditions that cause lung damage, such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema – where small air pockets or blisters in the lungs are damaged.
The condition is incurable and affects 900,000 people in the UK, usually over 35, and an estimated 30,000 people die each year.
Experts believe that there are also more than two million undiagnosed cases. COPD is linked to smoking, but it can also develop in people who have had severe asthma since childhood.
Traditional lung function tests are usually done in a clinic with equipment such as an exercise bike, face mask and computer.
Scientists from the Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands say that current methods are not reliable for measuring daily activities.
The research team asked one group of 15 healthy volunteers to wear a smart shirt during daily activities such as lying down, sitting, standing, climbing stairs and floating.
The shirt, which is already being used by professional athletes and sports teams, can also record the wearer's heartbeat and movements
They then performed the same tasks to bear traditional equipment including a face mask and a large backpack.
The volunteers repeated the tasks again with both the smart shirt and the traditional set to generate a second set of data.
WHAT IS CHRONIC OBSTRUCTIVE PULMONARY DISEASE?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) describes a group of lung diseases that cause the airways to narrow and become inflamed.
Examples of this are bronchitis, which affects the airways, and emphysema, which affects the air pockets.
This makes it harder to move air in and out while you breathe.
About 1.2 million people in the UK are diagnosed with COPD, according to statistics from the British Lung Foundation.
And in the US, 16 million people suffer from COPD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It usually develops as a result of long-term damage to the lungs due to smoking or air pollution.
Work where people are exposed to smoke, dust and chemicals also increases the risk.
COPD also appears to be performed in families.
And a rare genetic condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency makes people susceptible at a very young age.
- Breathlessness during daily activities such as walking
- Persistent cough
- Squeaky breathing in cold weather
- Producing excessive mucus
In severe cases, patients lose their appetite, swollen ankles, lose weight and may even cough up blood.
COPD is incurable and the damage to the lungs cannot be reversed.
However, treatments can help to facilitate breathing.
Patients must also stop smoking and maintain a healthy weight.
Researchers discovered that the smart shirts were just as accurate as the clinical tests.
The difference between the measurements of the two devices on average was only 0.2 percent, which represents only a few milliliters of air.
With more strenuous activities there were slightly larger differences – with hoovering the difference was on average three percent, or about 40 ml.
The researchers are now planning to repeat tests on smart shirts with COPD patients.
They believe that the technology can also help with other respiratory diseases such as asthma, cystic fibrosis or after transplantation.
The findings are presented today at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Madrid.
Principal investigator Denise Mannee, technical doctor and PhD student at Radboud University Medical Center, said: & These results are important because they indicate that the smart shirt can be worn by patients while monitoring their daily lives to accurately measure their lung function.
& # 39; COPD is a growing problem with around 64 million people suffering from the condition worldwide.
& # 39; If patients suffer from an increase in their symptoms, such as coughing and shortness of breath, they should be monitored more closely.
& # 39; The symptoms first occur during daily activities such as climbing stairs and housework, but breathing is difficult to control in such circumstances.
& # 39; This is traditionally done in the clinic with equipment such as an exercise bike, face mask, and computer. & # 39;
He added: & # 39; The equipment is not very practical for measuring daily activities. We wanted to see if a smart shirt could offer an accurate and practical alternative to measuring lung function.
& # 39; Ultimately we want to improve the quality of life of patients. If we can closely monitor patients' symptoms while continuing their normal activities, we may be able to identify problems and treat them earlier, which in turn can mean less time in the hospital. & # 39;
Professor Thierry Troosters, from Leuven University Hospitals in Belgium, described smart shirt technology as promising but expensive.
He added: “Monitoring can help some patients, such as those who experience frequent symptoms, to predict disease deterioration so that they can accelerate their treatment.
& # 39; Smart shirt technology offers a promising, although relatively expensive, tool to monitor patients' breathing status during normal activities in a way that does not interfere too much with their daily lives.
& # 39; This is an example of data from wearables. In combination with the use of a smartphone interface, such data can help educated healthcare providers about the & # 39; status & # 39; of their patients.
& # 39; The use of artificial intelligence and deep learning algorithms is expected to minimize the burden of handling this data and most monitoring will be automatic. We look forward to more work in this field of respiratory research. & # 39;
The findings were received with careful optimism by the British Lung Foundation.
Dr. Alison Cook, Chairman of the Task Force on Lung Health, said: & # 39; From pedometers to T-shirts that control your lungs – there is an endless buzz about new technology that can revolutionize healthcare.
& # 39; Technological progress offers an opportunity to improve the health and well-being of the entire country in the long term.
& # 39; But we should not rush into the excitement of a space age health service. & # 39;
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