Signal Processing Underpins Advances in Medical Diagnostics and Treatments: New signal processing-supported technologies benefit both physicians and patients

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Signal Processing Underpins Advances in Medical Diagnostics and Treatments: New signal processing-supported technologies benefit both physicians and patients

By: 
John Edwards

In an age when signal processing lies at the core of so many different technologies, nothing is more important than its contribution to health care. From improved cardiac patient support to enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and advanced diagnostics, signal processing is helping physicians work more safely, efficiently, and accurately. Here is a look at three important research projects that are using signal processing to assist both patients and health-care providers.

Researchers at George Washington University and Northwestern University have developed a new category of medical instruments incorporating an advanced soft electronics system that promises to significantly improve the diagnoses and treatments of many different cardiac diseases and conditions. The system applies stretchable and flexible matrices of electrode sensors and actuators as well as temperature and pressure sensors to a balloon catheter, which is frequently used in minimally invasive surgeries or the ablations needed to treat conditions such as heart arrhythmias.

While a widely used surgical tool, current-generation catheters present a number of serious disadvantages. One key drawback is rigidity, which prevents the catheter from conforming well to soft biological tissues, affecting the high-fidelity mapping of an organ’s electrophysiological signals. As a result, conventional catheters can only make contact with a single organ at a time, making it necessary to constantly move a probe from place to place, lengthening the time required to complete a medical procedure. Existing catheters are also limited in the number of functions they can perform, forcing physicians to use multiple ones during a single ablation procedure.

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