A device created by a Brazilian company to monitor sleep apnea can help remotely monitor patients with mild symptoms of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
Biologix, a startup in São Paulo, created, five years ago, an oximeter that captures the oxygenation data of the patient and, with the help of a cell phone application, monitors this data and sends it to a database. There, a medical team has access to information.
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The device’s original intention was that patients with sleep apnea did not need to spend the night being monitored in the laboratory to receive the diagnosis. With the pandemic of the new coronavirus, the creators made adaptations to the system so that it is used in patients with mild cases of Covid-19.
The oximeter is already being tested at the Pacaembu Campaign Hospital, in the capital of São Paulo, and there is also an intention to expand the initiative to other public hospitals, explains pulmonologist Geraldo Lorenzi Filho, director of Biologix and associate professor at USP who runs the Laboratory Institute of Heart, in São Paulo.
“In hospitals, it can be used to monitor non-critical Covid-19 patients and leave ICU beds free for critical patients”, explains Tácito Mistrorigo de Almeida, president of Biologix, to Agência Fapesp (Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do State of São Paulo). The foundation contributed to the financing of the research that originated the oximeter.
First, the team’s intention is to spread the use of the equipment in hospitals. Then, there are plans for it to be sold directly to the consumer, in pharmacies. With that, in a second moment, it would be possible to monitor patients directly from their home, explains Lorenzi Filho.
See how the oximeter works
The pulmonologist remembers that hypoxia – which is the low oxygenation of tissues – caused by Covid, has no symptoms. Therefore, it is possible that the patient has the problem without feeling it. Hence the importance of the oximeter.
“Venous blood [das veias] passes through the lungs and does not oxygenate, “explains Lorenzi Filho.” Then hypoxia begins. Except that hypoxia does not cause shortness of breath. When the patient is hospitalized, he is hospitalized for respiratory failure – to receive oxygen “, says Lorenzi Filho.
The doctor says that the equipment developed by the company has two highlights: one is the possibility of remote monitoring. The other is stability in measurements – because it is associated with a device that prevents measurements from oscillating with the patient’s movements, as in “normal” oximeters.
In addition, the parity with the cell phone makes the patient “remembered” of the measurements every four hours. The pulmonologist says the team plans to test the use of the equipment at home with residents of Paraisópolis, in São Paulo. In addition to measuring the oxygenation of patients, the oximeter allows to keep a record of previous measurements, to monitor an improvement or worsening of the condition.
The device is a portable, wireless sensor placed on the patient’s index finger. He is able to indicate the person’s oxygen saturation and heart rate, and the idea is that if there is a drop in oxygen supply, the medical team will contact the patient or whoever is taking care of him in person.
“The system allows the monitoring team to send patients to a hospital at the right time, reducing the risk of contagion when interacting with other people and, above all, protecting health professionals”, explained Tácito Mistrorigo de Almeida to Agência Fapesp.
“Several devices are now available to monitor patients with suspected Covid-19 or mild symptoms, but they are based on the patients’ subjective responses. They do not monitor clinical signs like our system,” he said.