Researchers at the University of California San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering in the US have developed a wearable monitoring system that acts as an electrocardiogram (ECG) for the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
The device is designed to monitor electrical activity in the stomach over 24 hours in an outpatient setting to reduce costs and increase the chances of capturing any abnormal activity.
It consists of a 3D printed portable box connected to ten small wearable electrodes. An algorithm that can distinguish between abdominal muscle activity, heartbeats, and gastric activity has been integrated to identify the GI’s electrical signals.
Data captured by the device is transferred to a corresponding smartphone app to facilitate real-time review by clinicians and patients. The app can also be used to log patient activities such as meals and sleep.
University of California San Diego bioengineering postdoctoral researcher Armen Gharibans said: “We think our system will spark a new kind of medicine, where a gastroenterologist can quickly see where and when a part of the GI tract is showing abnormal rhythms and as a result make more accurate, faster and personalised diagnoses.”
The researchers tested the device in 11 paediatric patients and one adult subject who were undergoing the invasive manometry procedure that objectively monitors GI tract activity through the insertion of a catheter down the nose to measure pressure at various points within the stomach.
It was observed that the data obtained using the new system was comparable to data collected in the clinic with standard methods. The device was additionally found to be ‘robust and reliable’ compared to manometry.
The researchers expect that the wearable system will help in improving GI problems associated with various conditions, including diabetes and Parkinson’s. It can also assist certain healthy individuals such as athletes and pregnant women.