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Ready-to-care! Shirt that can monitor a patient’s breathing

Lighter touch: A volunteer wearing a Hexoskin and the typical equipment for gauging breathing PICTURES: SWNS

A ‘SMART shirt’ that accurately measures a person’s breathing could be used to monitor patients with lung disease.

The Hexoskin senses how fabric stretches when the chest expands and contracts, and uses this to gauge the volume of air inhaled and exhaled, while recording heart rate and movement.

Researchers at Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands asked 15 healthy volunteers to wear the shirt during everyday activities, such as climbing stairs and vacuuming.

Their breathing was measured with a mobile app. The volunteers then repeated the tasks wearing bulky equipment that is typically used to measure breathing, including a face mask and backpack.

They found the two sets of measurements were very similar. The team plan to repeat the tests on patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The technology could also help those with asthma and cystic fibrosis.

Researcher Denise Mannée said: ‘Ultimately, we want to improve patients’ quality of life. If we can accurately monitor patients’ symptoms while they go about their normal activities, we might be able to spot problems and treat them sooner, and this in turn could mean less time in hospital.’