Medical Devices and Healthcare IT

Watch: Device helps those with swallowing problems at home

18 December 2019

Researchers from Purdue University have developed a wearable monitoring device to help patients with swallowing disorders. The researchers’ goal was to make treatments for swallowing disorders accessible and inexpensive.

Purdue researchers created wearable technology to help people with swallowing disorders. (Source: Jared Pike/Purdue University)Purdue researchers created wearable technology to help people with swallowing disorders. (Source: Jared Pike/Purdue University)

Current devices for swallowing disorders are expensive and they cannot be used outside of the doctor’s office. This makes it difficult for people living in rural areas to access their treatment.

The new device is a skin-mountable sensor sticker. It attaches firmly to the neck area and is connected via small cables to a wireless transmitter. The sticker is stretchable and flexible to move with the skin and fit with the head and neck shape. The transmitter measures and records muscle activity and swallowing. The gathered data is sent wirelessly via a separate unit, made of electronic chips and rigid components, that clips to the wearer’s shirt. The unit sends the data to software that stores it for analysis by a doctor. The sensor sticker is disposable, inexpensive and can be used up to 10 times before being thrown away. Researchers created the device to specifically work with the small muscles that are associated with swallowing.

A successful swallow requires the coordination of 30 pairs of muscles in the head and neck, six pairs of cranial nerves and complex circuitry in the brain. The disruption of any of these pathways results in severe swallowing disorders. Over nine million adults and 500,000 children in the U.S have some kind of severe swallowing disorder.

Researchers have conducted pre-clinical tests of the device and they are currently conducting clinical trials. A paper on this research was published in Science Advances.



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