It has been shown that there are over four million neonatal deaths annually, a large percent of these deaths occurring in low- and mid- income nations. Often times, a large portion of these are apnea related deaths; deaths that could be prevented with adequate respiration surveillance. Unfortunately, in settings like Tanzania, clinics do not have adequate technology or clinicians for this monitoring their overcrowded clinics. You can imagine the difficulty one clinician may have keeping track of the 20-30 infant filling a small room—especially with the small movements associated with premature breathing patterns.
Infant respiratory monitors are simple solutions to enhance and compliment clinician surveillance. Although there are a wide range of sophisticated devices that effectively monitor infant respiration, models currently in use are cost prohibitive and heavily energy dependent. This precludes realistic implementation in low-resource areas. In an attempt to reduce the incidence of apnea related deaths in the low-resource setting, we have developed a MEMS-accelerometer based respirator monitor. The monitor is composed of low-cost analog components that draw significantly less current than the expensive monitors in use in the developed world.
The goal was to develop a low-cost, easy-to-use, and reliable device for implementation in low-resource settings, to reliably monitor infant respiration and notify a caregiver when a baby has stopped breathing for 20 seconds. Breathing patterns a largely erratic, even within signal infants. A cessation of breath up to 30 seconds will generally not lead to detrimental effects. By using a simple analog circuit, infant breathing can be monitored without the need to store large amounts of data. Careful considerations have been put into designing a device that was reliable and safe for both the patient and user. The solution proposed is a small device that attaches to the baby's abdomen and detects movement, or lack thereof. In the case of an apnea event, and alarm in the device will give auditory and visual cues to alert the caregiver that the infant needs attention. The device will be powered by three rechargeable AAA batteries to reduce consumables. Using 3 AAA batteries, the device can last for 130-200 hours. The device has a variable threshold for use between different infants.
In the next iteration of device the circuitry will be condensed and the AAA batteries will be replaced with a smaller watch battery. A streamlined charging structure will be built into the circuitry and 3D printed case. The charging electrodes will be placed in such a way that many devices could be stacked on top of each other to easily charge. Once the device is produced in large quantities, it is estimated that it will cost about $20-$30 and be no bigger than 6 inches cubed.
Once the circuitry and enclosure has been condensed and user adoption has been confirmed, it is proposed that radio frequency components will be introduced. Each device will interact with a central station to improve the efficiency of infant monitoring while possibly creating more jobs within the society of implementation.