Respiration Monitor Could Help Premature Babies

A start-up company is developing a novel, non-invasive device for detecting early-stage respiratory irregularities in premature babies, children and adults receiving ICU care. Known as Pneumedicare, the company - which evolved from an award-winning project carried out by undergraduates at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology - began operations in Israel five months ago.

The device can immediately detect deterioration in lung ventilation and the development of common problems in ICU patients, such as partial blockage of the air passages or ventilation from only one lung. It also detects less common, but still life-threatening, complications such as the accumulation of air between the lungs and chest cavity walls. Early detection of such problems reduces the risks of complications, damage to vital organs and irreversible brain damage.

Current respirators and supportive devices do not directly monitor chest cavity mechanics. As a result, up to six hours can elapse before medical personnel detect respiratory problems - often when the patient is already exhibiting signs of distress.

“Our device monitors respiration mechanics,” explains CEO Dr. Carmit Levy, who is also a lecturer at the Technion. “We place external sensors on the sides of the chest and the upper part of the stomach of a premature baby on a respirator. By doing so, we can monitor lack of symmetry between the two lungs and the development of mechanical disturbances in lung ventilation.”

The market potential for the device is significant. According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services statistics, more than 245,000 babies per year in the U.S. are put on respirators, and estimates from the National Center for Health Statistics put the cost of ICU care for premature babies in the U.S. at more than $15 billion annually. When combined with the totals for children and adults, the cost of annual ICU care rises to more than $35 billion.

With hospital costs for the care of a premature baby estimated at $2,000 a day in the U.S. (Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, January 19, 2007), the device also carries long-range financial implications. Early detection of problems will reduce the length of hospital stays, as well as long-term costs associated with treating those disabled as a result of respiratory problems as premature babies.

Pneumedicare was founded by Technion Faculty of Biomedical Engineering Professor Amir Landesberg and Dr. Dan Waisman of the Technion Faculty of Medicine and Carmel Medical Center. The pair conceived the idea for the undergraduate project -carried out by Technion students Hagay Weisbrod and Nitai Hanani - from which the company was born. The company’s biomedical engineer Anna Feingersh conducts research and development of the clinical product.

Clinical trials are now underway at the Carmel Medical Center in Haifa, Israel. The company estimates that the first device, priced at around $5,000, will be on the market by mid-2009.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology ( is Israel’s leading science and technology university. Home to the country’s winners of the Nobel Prize in science, it commands a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work in nanotechnology, computer science, biotechnology, water-resource management, materials engineering, aerospace and medicine. The majority of the founders and managers of Israel’s high-tech companies are alumni. Based in New York City, the American Technion Society (ATS) ( is the leading American organization supporting higher education in Israel, with 22 offices around the country.

Source: American Technion Society

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