New heart radar can predict death four days | Knowledge & Environment | DW

The idea of ​​Professor Alexander Kölpin from the Hamburg University of Technology is impressively simple: If you can use radar to locate ships, calculate flight altitudes and flash speeders on the autobahn, then this contactless technology can certainly also be used in medicine: Wireless sensors have great potential to make medical examinations more convenient, safer and more efficient, “says Köplin.

The idea of ​​using radar to locate buried people through their breathing and heartbeat is not entirely new, but Kölpin and his research team are the first in Europe to develop radar systems for medical use and already have clinical patient tests.

At the Institute for High Frequency Technology, the team has developed highly sensitive sensor systems for the medical monitoring of patients. With the new radar technology, both heartbeat and breathing can be continuously and contact-free analyzed.

Determine body values ​​wirelessly

With the classic EKG, the heartbeat is determined using electrodes and cables that connect the patient to the measuring devices. With radar technology, on the other hand, monitoring is non-contact and from a distance.

A small box measures the heartbeat and breathing – unlike this test – contactlessly under the bed.

The radar sensor developed by Kölpin can record heart and respiratory values ​​through clothing, duvets and even mattresses and transmit them to the monitoring devices. “Our sensors emit electromagnetic waves that are reflected by the body. In the implementation it works something like this: The blood expelled by the heart runs along the vessels in the form of a pulse wave, which appears as a vibration on the body surface. We can do this with the help of the sensors measure and determine many medical aspects of the cardiovascular system from them. “

Highly sensitive measurement of the pulse rate

The inconspicuous little box hangs under the bed. When the heart pumps blood through the veins, the surface of the skin rises minimally, so we can also measure the pulse rate with our bare fingers, for example on the wrist.

Heart radar from the TU Hamburg

With the help of sensors, both breathing and heartbeat can be measured.

The new radar device can analyze this minimal elevation of the skin surface by measuring the distance. The sensors are so precise that the heart rate, the cardiac load and the pulse wave speed, with which one can determine a hardening of the arteries and thus the risk of stroke, can be measured exactly.

If the heart is no longer beating regularly or there are rhythm disturbances, the new device sounds the alarm. In this way, life-saving measures can be initiated much earlier.

Identify epilepsy in newborns

For the time being, the research project focuses on the medical observation of premature and newborn babies. “Our main focus is on epileptic seizures. It is believed that undetected epilepsy is responsible for up to 20 percent of all sudden infant deaths. The problem with this is that these seizures are often undiagnosed in young children because they are not yet showing motor cramps. ”


In contrast to the ECG, the small patients can be observed without contact

Thanks to the contactless measurement with the sensors, the children are monitored continuously and without restrictions. A seizure can thus be noticed and treated early enough.

Can also be used with COVID-19 patients

It makes sense to use the technology in the current corona pandemic, says Kölpin. “In connection with the cardiovascular and respiratory activity measured by us, the temperature can be determined without contact and thus important parameters for assessing the state of health in connection with a possible corona infection can be checked,” says Kölpin.

Infected people can be examined without contact, which also reduces the risk of infection for medical staff.

Even death can be predicted four days

So far, the newly developed heart radar has only been used in the Palliative Care Unit at the Erlangen Women’s Clinic. Anyone lying here is terminally ill and will soon die. When the time comes, the new heart radar can determine about four days before death. In this way, patients and relatives know when the time has come to say goodbye to each other.


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