Vital Sign Monitor Vital to Survival

Portable, wireless device could improve care during emergencies

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SUNDAY, Nov. 9, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A small, portable device can transmit patient vital signs from accident or disaster scenes to medical staff in hospitals or other central medical locations.

The "Vital Dust" device measures heart rate and the percent of oxygen saturation in the blood, an important indicator of a patient's cardiopulmonary status. The data is transmitted via radio to a wearable or handheld computer, where it's displayed for a medical team.

"If there is a mass casualty event, having this information on all the victims will allow the emergency medical technicians to triage right then and there, giving the sickest people priority. In single-person casualties, we'll know right away if the patient has a sudden change in status and needs immediate attention," Matt Welsh, an assistant professor of computer sciences at Harvard University and one of the developers of Vital Dust, says in a prepared statement.

Details about Vital Dust were presented Nov. 8 during the American Heart Association's annual conference in Orlando, Fla.

Vital Dust is a low-power computer, about the size of a pack of chewing gum. It's connected to a sensor that fits over the patient's fingertip. Vital Dust, which is powered by two AA batteries, includes an embedded microprocessor, memory and wireless communication interface.

The unit can store the patient's pre-hospital medical record along with a record of his or her vital signs.

"This form of data management enables a copy of the pre-hospital record to travel with the patient, giving hospital-based personnel the ability to review what was done in the field and determine how those maneuvers may have influenced the resuscitation process," Dr. Steve Moulton, one of the researchers who tested the device, says in a prepared statement.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about what to do in an emergency medical situation.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Nov. 8, 2003

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