09:22am Tuesday 24 September 2019

Scottish technology to help doctors detect early warning signs of breathing problems

Originally developed in Scotland with support from a Wellcome Trust Strategic Translation Award, the product will be available in Europe from January 2012 with a limited market release by US-based healthcare provider Covidien. This follows Covidien’s recent announcement that they have received regulatory approval and labelled the product with the CE Mark.

The new software computes a patient’s breathing rate from information that is already collected using well-established monitoring devices called pulse oximeters. Pulse oximeters attach to a patient’s fingertip and measure their pulse rate and the oxygen levels in their blood.

The Covidien Nellcor Respiration Rate software uses a relatively new mathematical technique to calculate the patient’s breathing rate from the electronic signal collected by the pulse oximeter. Until now, the least intrusive way to assess breathing rate was for medical staff to manually count the rise and fall of a patient’s chest.

Devices that can provide continual monitoring of breathing rate are available, but they all require additional monitoring sensors and many are uncomfortable for the patient to wear. The new software is fully integrated into the pulse oximeter, so there is no need for additional wires or screens, and doctors will be able to continually assess a patient’s wellbeing and spot signs of distress earlier.

Scott Kelley, Chief Medical Officer, Respiratory and Monitoring Solutions at Covidien, explains: “Respiration rate is a critical vital sign that can provide an early warning of respiratory complications that may require immediate intervention. Despite its clinical importance, current methods of respiration rate monitoring are not always adequate.

“The addition of respiration rate to the Covidien Nellcor Respiratory Function portfolio provides a more holistic monitoring solution using a single, integrated sensor. Instead of merely knowing a patient’s blood oxygen levels, we can now look at aspects of ventilation, or the passing of air into and out of the body. This gives dedicated care teams a more complete picture of a patient’s respiratory status, so they can provide effective treatment and maintain patient safety.”

The technology for the Respiration Rate software was developed by CardioDigital Ltd, a Scottish company specialising in the development of advanced signal processing techniques for patient monitoring, with translational funding support from the Wellcome Trust. Covidien acquired the technology in 2008 to complement their pulse oximetry platform [1].

Ted Bianco, Director of Technology Transfer at the Wellcome Trust, said: “The Respiration Rate software is an example of how advances in the physical sciences can translate into important enhancements in patient monitoring technology.”

Image: Pulse and oxygen saturation being measured using a pulse oximeter on a finger. Credit: Tessa Oksanen, Wellcome Images.


1 Covidien acquires Cardiodigital Inc. technology

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