The stethoscope has been used by medical professionals for more than 200 years, giving instant audio feedback on a patient’s lungs, heart or other organs. Researchers of the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Berlin, Germany, have developed the Pneumo.Vest with integrated acoustic sensors, to perform the same job throughout the day wherever its wearer goes.
Piezoceramic acoustic sensors have been incorporated into the front and back of the vest to register any noise produced by the lungs in the thorax, no matter how small. A software program records the signals and electronically amplifies them, while the lungs are depicted visually on a display. As the software knows the position of each individual sensor, it can attribute the data to its precise location. This produces a detailed acoustic and optical picture of the ventilation situation of all parts of the lungs.
“Pneumo.Vest is not looking to make the stethoscope redundant and does not replace the skills of experienced pneumologists,” says Ralf Schallert, project manager at Fraunhofer IKTS. “However, auscultation or even CT scans of the lungs only ever present a snapshot at the time of the examination. Our technology provides added value because it allows for the lungs to be monitored continuously in the same way as a long-term ECG, even if the patient is not attached to machines in the ICU but has instead been admitted to the general ward.”