A new imaging technique, where high-frequency currents are passed through the body, could help doctors to continuously monitor patients' lungs during artificial respiration. Matthew Stock reports.
This electrode belt is sending tiny currents into the body. It's so weak it can't be felt. By measuring the electrical voltage as it passes through the body, doctors can construct a better picture of what's going on inside. Called Electrical Impedance Tomography, or EIT, scientists in Vienna are adapting it to help doctors monitor patients' lungs during artificial respiration. It's currently difficult to gauge how much air should be administered, and too much can cause lung trauma. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR STEFAN BÖHME, MEDICAL UNIVERSITY OF VIENNA, SAYING: "Mechanical ventilation on one hand is life-saving, but on the other hand mechanical ventilation... can lead to secondary lung damage, so-called ventilator induced lung damage." A patient is first given a CT scan, with the anatomical information combined with the data from the EIT belt. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FLORIAN THÜRK, DOCTORAL STUDENT, VIENNA UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY (TU WIEN), SAYING: "We feed information from the patient into the reconstruction process, for instance we take the contours of the thorax and we take the contours of the lungs so we know exactly where the positions of the organs are. We feed this into the reconstruction algorithms of EIT." Just one CT scan is needed - minimising the patient's exposure to radiation. The result is a living, breathing, image of the patient's lung. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR STEFAN BÖHME, MEDICAL UNIVERSITY OF VIENNA, SAYING: "So this novel imaging modality of computed tomographay enhanced electrical impedance tomography can of course be applied continiously at the bedside without any radiation... We measure regional distribution of ventilation, so we get a bed-side image showing us directly where the air of each breathing cycle goes to the lungs." The research was published recently in the journal PLoS One. So far it's been successfully tested on pigs, and human clinical trials are now on the horizon.