Uzima Neonatal Vital Signs Monitor

Columbia University, 2011 - $18,500

Infants in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) suffer from a variety of heart and respiratory conditions that can be fatal if not properly diagnosed and treated. One of the most important components of this care is vital signs monitoring, but, due to a severe lack of staff (two nurses for fifty infants is not uncommon), funding, and equipment in the developing world, as well as a high number of infants, current vital signs monitors are too expensive for widespread use.

The Uzima team is designing an inexpensive, non-invasive vital signs monitor to continuously measure neonatal heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature in low-resource NICUs. The monitor will measure heart rate and respiratory rate using piezoelectric transducers, temperature using surface thermistors, and present the stats on a LCD display in the control unit. The various sensors will be incorporated in a self-contained, soft mat encased in waterproof Gore-Tex for easy sterilization and reuse, and placed underneath the child’s clothing. The device will emit auditory and visual alarms when a problem occurs, and include rechargeable batteries to handle frequent power outages. A second alarm would indicate low batteries.