Researchers developing mobile seizure alert system
A group of researchers in the US have announced that work is underway to develop a mobile device capable of alerting an epilepsy patient’s carers when a seizure is about to occur.
RTI International, an independent non-profit organisation, has received a $1.6 million (£1 million) grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to accelerate efforts towards creating a fully-functional prototype, having successfully given a proof-of-concept demonstration.
The organisation’s seizure alert system will use “an array of noninvasive physiological sensors”, according to scientists, monitoring factors like heart rate, respiration and body orientation and determining if they correspond with typical responses to the heightened neural activity that precedes an epileptic seizure.
RTI validated this detection algorithm in clinical study conducted prior to receiving the NIH grant, though it has yet to be practically demonstrated.
Barbara Kroner, senior epidemiologist and co-principal investigator of the project, commented: “The RTI seizure alert system could have a substantial and measurable impact on the epilepsy community by decreasing the number of seizure-related injuries and deaths, improving quality of life, and increasing independence for both patients and caregivers.”
She added that perhaps the most significant potential benefit of the device will be to reduce instances of sudden unexplained death in epilepsy, which often happens during a nocturnal seizure and therefore goes unobserved and unsupervised by a carer.
“In these cases, our monitoring device, which includes cardiac and respiratory sensors, could be life saving,” Dr Kroner remarked.
Over the course of the project, RTI will work alongside the Division of Epilepsy, Neurophysiology and Critical Care Neurology at the Children’s National Medical Center to collect data from paediatric patients and test the prototype device.
They will also identify potential subjects to trial the system in the home.
Approximately two million people in the US receive treatment for epilepsy, among them 400,000 children. Around a third of all epilepsy patients do not respond to conventional therapies, meaning their seizures need to be managed by carers and families.