Clothes that monitor your heart 

Textile electrodes embedded in clothes are just as reliable as traditional electrodes when it comes to monitoring the heart and measuring body composition such as weight and the percentage of fat, muscle and water in the body. This is evident from research conducted at the University of Borås and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

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Juan Carlos Márquez is a researcher and doctoral student at the School of Technology and Health at KTH and the School of Engineering, University of Borås and also works in the Smart Textiles Initiative. He has examined the suitability of textile electrodes to perform bioimpedance measurements and their reliability in e-health applications for home health care of patients with chronic conditions such as renal or cardiac insufficiencies.

The results are very positive.

Traditional electrodes have to be attached by trained health care personnel for the electrodes to be properly positioned. Also, the electrodes are attached to the body using a sticky, conductive gel which may cause allergic reactions, which makes repeated uses over a long period of time difficult.

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It is a far better solution to design clothes with integrated electrodes that the patient him/herself can handle and that is adapted to be used by the patient for longer periods of time. This is positive both for the patient and the health care system and also reduces costs.

– The patient can easily put on the functional clothing, connect it to the monitoring system and transfer relevant information such as total body water percentage or cardiac stroke volume to the hospital. This allows hospital personnel to perform daily monitoring while decreasing the number of admissions to the hospital, Juan Carlos Márquez says.

In his thesis, which he has just defended, Juan Carlos Márquez shows that textile electrodes integrated into garments may be used btoh to measure total body composition through bioimpedance spectroscopy and to monitor heart function using so-called impedance cardiography.

The textile electrodes yielded reliable measurements which were comparable to results using traditional electrodes.

– Establishing that textile electrodes is just as effective as traditional ones is a very important first step toward developing a professional garment that can be used in a individualised monitoring system by the health care system, Juan Carlos Márquez says.

Read more at the KTH website

Text: Peter Larsson, KTH