Measurement and monitoring of electrocardiogram belt tension in premature infants for assessment of respiratory function
Background: Monitoring of the electrocardiogram (ECG) in premature infants with conventional adhesive-backed electrodes can harm their sensitive skin. Use of an electrode belt prevents skin irritation, but the effect of belt pressure on respiratory function is unknown. A strain gauge sensor is described which measures applied belt tension. Method: The device frame was comprised of an aluminum housing and slide to minimize the device weight. Velcro tabs connected housing and slide to opposite tabs located at the electrode belt ends. The slide was connected to a leaf spring, to which were bonded two piezoresistive transducers in a half-bridge circuit configuration. The device was tested for linearity and calibrated. The effect on infant respiratory function of constant belt tension in the normal range (30 g–90 g) was determined. Results: The mechanical response to a step input was second order (f_n = 401 Hz, ζ = 0.08). The relationship between applied tension and output voltage was linear in the range 25–225 gm of applied tension (r² = 0.99). Measured device sensitivity was 2.18 mV/gm tension using a 5 V bridge excitation voltage. When belt tension was increased in the normal range from 30 gm to 90 gm, there was no significant change in heart rate and most respiratory functions during monitoring. At an intermediate level of tension of 50 gm, pulmonary resistance and work of breathing significantly decreased. Conclusion: The mechanical and electrical design of a device for monitoring electrocardiogram electrode belt tension is described. Within the typical range of application tension, cardiovascular and respiratory function are not substantially negatively affected by electrode belt force.
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