Biomedical engineering students at Johns Hopkins University have designed a lightweight, shirt-like garment to deliver lifesaving shocks to patients experiencing serious heart problems. The students say their design improves upon a wearable defibrillator system that is already in use.
The students believe their easily concealed shirt will help persuade patients at risk for sudden cardiac arrest to wear the system around the clock. Says Sandya Subramanian, a Johns Hopkins junior who led the undergraduate team that built the new prototype: “In two studies, up to 20 per cent of patients who received the defibrillator garment that’s already available did not keep it on all the time because of comfort and appearance issues, problems sleeping in it, and frequent ‘maintenance alarms’, which occur when the device does not get a good signal from sensors on the patient’s skin. For our class project, we set out to address these issues and design a device that heart patients would be more likely to wear for longer periods of time – because their lives may depend on it.”
Wearable defibrillators, resting against the skin, are designed to detect arrhythmia, an irregular heart rhythm that can cause death in minutes if it is not stopped by controlled jolts of electricity. People who face this higher risk of sudden cardiac arrest include patients who have undergone open-heart surgery and those who have recently survived a heart attack.
The new garment is a comfortable vest-like design made of thin, breathable and stretchable fabric, which also is waterproof for easy cleaning. The shirt can be worn unobtrusively beneath the patient’s clothing. Its electrical components, capable of delivering a 200-joule shock to stop a deadly arrhythmia, are encased in thin pockets on the sides of the garment.
Source: Johns Hopkins University