Siemens has recently launched a sensor that will monitor a patient’s breathing patterns to warn of impending asthma attacks. It does this by warning of inflammation in air passages, so that patients can take preventive medication well in advance.
It is portable and so sensitive that it can measure even 1ppb that is almost the same as the presence of a cube of sugar in a swimming pool measuring 50m. It is available in a prototype device a little bigger than a cell phone.
The underlying inflammation of bronchial tubes in a person suffering from asthma starts some time prior to the actual attack. In the case of a severe inflammation, the wind pipes diminish in size before an asthma attack. At times these attacks are severe it requires hospitalization, compelling patients to be on constant medication. The device that can be directly used by patients without the need of a physician will help them track the presence of NO in their breath as much as 24 hours prior to the possible asthma attack, and take preventive measures to avoid potential asthma attacks.
The sensor first turns the nitrogen monoxide into nitrogen dioxide then allows the air to blow across the entire sensor. This triggers a voltage measured by a field-effect transistor. The voltage sensitivity depends on the nitrogen monoxide present. This helps the patient decide how often and how much medication will be needed to prevent an asthma attack.