UCLA researchers develop wearable biosensor for detecting GI disorder postsurgery

Non-invasive acoustic gastrointestinal surveillance biosensor--Courtesy of UCLA

"Listen to your body" is good advice for healthy living, and University of California, Los Angeles, researchers have developed a device that does just that in order to determine how soon patients should be fed following surgery. Patients with the intestinal problem postoperative ileus (POI) fall sick if they eat too soon after surgery and must stay in the hospital for an additional two to three days, UCLA says.

The noninvasive AbStats biosensor picks up sounds coming from the intestine via a microphone that attaches to the outside of the abdomen. A computer program connects to the device and can interpret the information to distinguish between between patients with and without POI, the news release says, citing a study in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery

"The role of wearable sensors in healthcare has reached mainstream consciousness and has the capacity to transform how we monitor and deliver care. Yet, there are very few biosensors that are supported by any peer-reviewed evidence. This study represents peer-reviewed evidence supporting use of a biosensor, a device born and bred out of UCLA multidisciplinary research," said Dr. Brennan Spiegel, a professor at UCLA's medical school, in the news release. 

"The way doctors currently monitor for POI is putting a stethoscope on the patient's belly for 15 seconds, briefly listening for sounds of intestinal awakening, and asking about flatulence. It's all very rudimentary and inaccurate. With this new vital sign, the team can now monitor the intestines empirically and make more informed decisions," he continued.

The device could have applications for other gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, according to UCLA. Every year, gastrointestinal disorders result in more than 70 million ambulatory care visits in the U.S., according to a National Institutes of Health study. 

"We think what we've invented is a way to monitor a new vital sign, one to go along with heart rate, blood pressure and respiration. This new vital sign, intestinal rate, could prove to be important in diagnosing and treating patients," Spiegel said in the release.

This wearable biosensor isn't quite as "cool" as those being developed by Apple, Intel and Google. But unlike the wearables being developed in Silicon Valley, UCLA's clinical-stage product has a clear medical application and is not focused on exercise monitoring.

- read the UCLA news release
- here's the study abstract

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