A new electronic tattoo developed by researchers at the University of Illinois, could be used to monitor the sound of the heart, muscles and gastrointestinal tract. As a medical monitoring device, the skin patch could help physicians diagnose an irregular heartbeat.
“Our body generates a lot of different sounds,” said Howard Liu, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “By designing sensors with a lightweight and thin construction, we are able to capture sounds or vibration signals from our skin.”
The medical device is composed of sensors and electrodes packaged in a flexible silicone patch. The adhesive sensor sticks to the skin, and can measure sounds between 0.5 and 550 Hertz.
In a test of the device, Liu and his team had eight patients from the Camp Lowell Cardiology clinic in Tucson, Arizona, wear the sensor on their chest. The electronic tattoo was able to detect heart murmurs in patients, which were later confirmed using an echocardiogram.
The patch could also monitor biological implants, and tell physicians if the devices move or suffer a mechanical failure. For example, when the researchers introduced blood clots into a left ventricular assistive device (LVAD) – a type of heart pump – the skin patch was able to detect changes in the sounds of the LVAD.
“This type of signal – these low-frequency signals that one can get from muscle activities, from the heart, all of that – basically opens a new dimension of information, extra to the one that is typically recorded,” said Reza Bahmanyar of Imperial College London in the UK. “The way this collection of known technologies is used to produce something that is actually comfortable and usable by a patient – that is what I would call the added value here.”