Opioid overdose-related deaths have sadly been rising over the previous few many years, with the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating this public well being disaster even additional. As a end result, many scientists, healthcare professionals, and authorities officers have been working tirelessly to finish this lethal epidemic. Researchers on the University of Washington are one such group and have not too long ago unveiled a wearable to each detect opioid overdose and ship an antidote, in real-time, restoring regular bodily perform.
As the researchers describe of their paper, opioid overdose causes respiratory price melancholy which is able to result in hypoxia (inadequate oxygen within the blood) and finally demise. Fortunately, opioid overdose could be readily reversed utilizing naloxone, a compound that binds to receptors within the mind, outcompeting the opiates themselves, and restoring regular respiration. Unfortunately, if somebody is overdosing, they’re unable to self-administer the antidote and with many opioid overdoses occurring when the sufferer is alone (51.8%), it’s essential to develop an automatic system to ship the antidote when an overdose is detected.
The researchers start by describing their course of for measuring respiration, of which there are a number of choices. You might use photoplethysmography in a lot of the identical manner we measure coronary heart price. Or you would measure the altering impedance of the chest cavity throughout respiration and even use an intraoral sensor that measures airflow within the mouth. Instead, the researchers choose to measure respiration by attaching accelerometers to the affected person’s stomach and measuring the motion of the belly cavity throughout respiration. They admit their approach turns into problematic when the affected person just isn’t stationary, however argue that within the case of a drug overdose, the affected person is prone to be immobilized and the gadget would have the ability to measure respiration with ease. They examined their gadget throughout dozens of wholesome, human volunteers, and even some opiate customers themselves, and confirmed their approach had good settlement with a reference respiratory belt positioned across the volunteers’ chests.
The cool half about this paper is that they demonstrated a “closed-loop” suggestions system during which their gadget measured respiration, detected cessation in respiration (indicating an overdose), and delivered the antidote. To ship naloxone, they leveraged an current, commercially-available drug supply system that requires a consumer to manually activate the gadget by urgent a button. They hacked the gadget a bit such that the set off may very well be actuated utilizing a servo motor correctly positioned to depress the button when an opioid overdose is detected. They simulated an overdose by asking the wholesome, human volunteers to carry their breath for a interval higher than 15 seconds. They have been in a position to efficiently ship the antidote to 100% of their volunteer group, indicating the gadget might probably work in real-world settings.
Now, the shape issue of the gadget undoubtedly wants to enhance as a way to deploy this gadget into the sphere, however we think about these are enhancements are underway and sufferers have proven willingness to put on such units already. Also, there’s nonetheless a little bit of a query of whether or not or not accelerometer-based respiration detection is perfect since some drug overdoses trigger seizures. Nevertheless, this is a vital step in combating the alarming rise in opioid overdose-related deaths and we hope to see many extra advances in affected person monitoring applied sciences on this area.