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Diagnostic Exhalations: By analyzing carbon dioxide in the breath, an algorithm could help determine how to treat patients.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Paramedics respond to a 911 call to find an elderly patient who’s having difficulty breathing. Anxious and disoriented, the patient has trouble remembering all the medications he’s taking, and with his shortness of breath, speaking is difficult. Is he suffering from acute emphysema or heart failure? The symptoms look the same, but initiating the wrong treatment regimen will increase the patient’s risk of severe complications.

Researchers from MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics, working with physicians from Harvard Medical School and the Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, believe that repurposing a piece of medical equipment standard in all ambulances in the United States and Europe could help paramedics make this type of field diagnosis.

In the December issue of IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, they present a new algorithm that can, with high accuracy, determine whether a patient is suffering from emphysema or heart failure based on readings from a capnograph —a machine that measures the concentration of carbon dioxide in a patient’s exhalations. Read more...