UT-ORNL Radio Sensors Relay Medical Information (272)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tiny, wireless sensors created by University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists can improve the relay of medical information about soldiers, sick infants and patients in remote areas.

 Dr. Thomas Ferrell, a UT-Knoxville and ORNL physicist and project leader, said the fingernail-sized sensors measure and transmit information on blood pressure, body temperature, pulse rate and other physiological factors.

 The device’s small size allows it to be worn into combat by soldiers, speeding up medical response time if they are wounded or injured, Ferrell said.

 The radio sensors also solves a problem for parents who cannot hold or cradle hospitalized infants because of wires on monitoring devices. The wireless sensors also save time and labor costs for hospitals by enabling patients on monitoring devices to be moved more quickly and easily, he said.

 “Parents may want to hold their newborns, but that is very difficult to do when the child is connected to 25 sets of wires,” Ferrell said. “It is a very important human factor issue. With wired monitors, you really cannot hold the baby at all.”

 Ferrell said wireless sensors can help patients in areas where physicians are not available.

“A wireless sensor on the patient can broadcast diagnostic information to a hospital or physician miles away,” Ferrell said.

 The sensor chips can also automatically telephone emergency services when triggered by a patient’s vital signs, Ferrell said.

 Ferrell is an associate professor in physics at UT-Knoxville. He is working on the project with Dr. Don Bouldin, Dr. Jim Rochelle and Dr. Paul Crilly, UT-Knoxville electrical engineering professors. Their work is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

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 Contact: Dr. Thomas Ferrell (423-974-3342 or 423-574-6214)