Toilet seats range from simple, no-tech versions to tricked-out affairs with heating, rinse and air-dry mechanisms, and more. But what about a toilet seat that can actually monitor a medical condition? In this case, the condition is heart failure and an experimental device looks like a promising way to monitor patients with this diagnosis.
About 6.5 million people suffer from heart failure and 960,000 Americans are diagnosed with it every year. These patients have a high risk of re-hospitalization after being discharged, with 20 percent readmitted within 30 days and 50 percent in 6 months. While at-home monitoring could reduce the chances of a pricey hospital re-admission — heart failure costs the US $30.7 billion annually and 80 percent of the costs are hospital-related — patients don’t always do it.
In a study in the JMIR mHealth and uHealth, researchers report that they’ve developed a toilet seat that can monitor a patient’s blood pressure, stroke volume, and peripheral blood oxygenation in a clinically accurate manner.
Nicholas Conn and a team at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York, developed the seat and are commercializing it through their company Heart Health Intelligence. The devices, battery operated and waterproof, require no action from patients and work any time they sit on the seat. They contain a single-lead echocardiogram; a ballistocardiogram for measuring the cardiac cycle; and a photoplethysmogram for measuring pulse-transit time and blood oxygenation. It still needs approval from the Food and Drug Administration before it can hit the market.
The study tracked 18 patients with heart failure who used the toilet seats for 8 weeks. The researchers found that the seats had clinical grade accuracy compared to the gold standard for measuring diastolic and systolic blood pressure, stroke volume, and peripheral blood oxygenation.
One limitation of the study is that patients did not use the devices in the real world as in, daily at home. The patients tested them in a clinic or lab setting, where they were instructed to sit on the seats and to avoid talking, urinating, or having a bowel movement. The researchers plan future studies to verify body weight measurements and for clinical trials that incorporate an alert-based system to detect any cardiac deterioration.
“If successful, this strategy has the potential to reduce the burden of heart failure and cardiovascular disease on the healthcare industry as well as improve the quality of life for patients,” the authors conclude.
Last updated on 10/1/19.