Monitoring anesthesia in the developing world

Mugabe Pulse Oximeter Africa
(c) Jacqueline Hudson

The widespread use of pulse oximetry in mandatory anesthesia monitoring has saved many lives, contributing to the significant decrease in anesthesia death rate in the developed world over the last several decades. By detecting early signs of hypoxemia (low blood oxygen levels), a pulse oximeter enables an early and rapid response to airway and respiratory problems. This can rescue a patient from the permanent effects of lack of oxygen, such as brain damage or death.

Lack of training and resources, however, has limited the uptake of pulse oximetry across much of the developed world, where death rates from anesthesia remain 100 - 1,000 times higher than the developed world. Here, most preventable anesthesia morbidity and mortality is related to airway and respiratory problems leading to hypoxemia. Key to wider adoption of this life saving technology is the availability of affordable, robust pulse oximeters that can be used by non-specialist healthcare workers.

The primary goal of this Phone Oximeter project is to demonstrate the potential for enhanced delivery of information from a pulse oximeter to enhance the safety of anesthesia care throughout the developing world. The PhoneOximeter combines an FDA approved pulse oximeter sensor and module with a cell phone. Our low cost, robust prototype pulse oximeter device conveys the quality and trend of physiological data over time through its intuitive user interface. The ease of use, presentation of warning signals and reliance on symbols mean that it can aid any clinician, regardless of language, in detecting clinical events and making clinical decisions. The future integration of clinical expertise into the software will allow non-specialist healthcare workers to monitor anesthesia with confidence.

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Electrical & Computer Engineering in Medicine (ECEM)
Pediatric Anesthesia Research Team, BC Children's Hospital
1L7-4480 Oak Street, Vancouver, BC Canada V6H 3V4
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e-mail part@cw.bc.ca

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