The Non-Invasive Vital Signs (NIVS) Monitoring Project is a joint research effort between the University of Malta, specifically the Department of Biomedical Cybernetics, and Mater Dei Hospital, and is funded by the Malta Council for Science and Technology. It is a research project aimed at recording heart rate and breathing rate data while using normal cameras (termed red-green-blue cameras) and infrared thermography cameras. The principle behind this is that subtle changes in the skin colour of the face occur as fresh blood is pumped by the heart with each heartbeat, and also that the temperature around the nostrils increases each time a person exhales and warm air comes out. Special data analysis techniques can extract this information from recordings of the face taken with these cameras. This method of monitoring body parameters is contact-free and therefore comes with no uncomfortable wires or stickers attached to the person.
This study will be performed in two stages; firstly, healthy participants will be recruited for recordings performed under laboratory conditions, and later on recordings will be taken from consenting patients in Mater Dei Hospital to assess how the technology works in different states of disease. Data collection is due to start later in October of 2020, and the project is expected to be completed in two years.
Non-contact monitoring technology is an area of great interest currently in the scientific world, since it offers possibilities for monitoring patients while allowing them to be mobile and more active . It can also be used to monitor patients in their home environments, with some sensors available that can be placed under mattresses and worn in patients’ clothing , , . In Malta, this is the first study of its kind that will trial this technology on patients in a real-life hospital setting, and may therefore prove its practical applications as well as its limitations.
The research team for this project is headed by Dr Owen Falzon. Other members of the team include Prof. Jean Calleja Agius, Dr Stephen Sciberras and Dr Nicole Grech. More information can be found on the Facebook Page dedicated to the NIVS project.
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