By Steven Galvan
Army medics use the Wireless Vital Signs Monitor during a simulated training exercise.
Combat medics could soon have a new vital signs monitoring device in their first aid kits to help accurately evaluate and track the condition of wounded warriors, from the point of injury on the battlefield through the medical evacuation process to an emergency room. The Wireless Vital Signs Monitor (WVSM), designed by a partnership of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research (USAISR), the U.S. Office of Naval Research, and Athena GTX and approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration, began the final phase of approval in September 2011 with clinical trials at the Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center emergency department and on the Life Flight air critical care medical transport service, both in Houston, TX.
The WVSM is a small, lightweight device that measures and records a patient’s electrocardiogram; heart rate; pulse oximeter; and noninvasive systolic, diastolic, and mean blood pressures. The information can then be transmitted to a medic’s laptop, smartphone, or electronic tablet, where it incorporates additional patient information, such as trends, pulse pressure, shock index, heart rate variability, and complexity indices, and calculates the percentage probability of needing a life-saving intervention using technology that incorporates artificial intelligence and advanced artificial neural networks.
“This device incorporates technology developed at the ISR to provide users with information on the patient condition, not just raw data from the patient sensors,” said Jose Salinas, Ph.D., Research Task Area Program Manager, Combat Critical Care Engineering at USAISR. “It’s the first monitor that incorporates artificial intelligence and machine learning technology.”
The WVSM, which is strapped to a patient’s arm or leg, captures all vital signs from the point of injury. It is capable of transmitting and downloading the information to a hospital’s emergency department monitoring system. Unlike current monitoring devices that provide medics with only a basic set of vital signs, the WVSM tells medics when a patient’s condition is getting worse even when there aren’t outward physical signs.
“If a patient has lost a lot of blood, standard vital signs may not fully represent how he is doing,” said Salinas. “Our bodies compensate for blood loss through different mechanisms that can mask the true severity of the injury.”
“This device incorporates technology developed at the [U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research] to provide users with information on the patient condition, not just raw data from the patient sensors.”
The WVSM trial is funded through a grant from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund and is being administered by the National Trauma Institute. This collaborative effort is also allowing engineers at the USAISR and the Army to develop the next generation of WVSM by incorporating state-of-the-art computer technology with advanced digital signal processing algorithms to produce smart vital-signs monitors.
“We are working on making it better,” said Salinas. “We can expect a new version in one to two years.”
The current WVSM uses electronic wires to connect the pulse oximeter that attaches to a patient’s finger and the electrodes that are placed on the chest. These wires could get cut or damaged during treatment or while removing garments from the patient.
“The new version will eliminate these wires,” Salinas said. “This device, and all of the research projects at the ISR, are aimed at optimizing combat casualty care and minimizing preventable death for our combat-wounded.”
- STEVEN GALVAN is the Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research. He holds an M.H.R. from the University of Oklahoma and an M.A.E. from the University of Phoenix. He is also a retired Navy Journalist Senior Chief.
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