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Pulse Oximeter for High Altitude Climbing

Original Post
Kevin Shin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2012 · Points: 10

Hey guys, so I am not much of a climber however I am an undergraduate student at Georgia Tech studying Industrial Design.

I am doing a re-design of a pulse oximeter solely for the use of high-altitude athletes (mountain climbers). Because i dont know much about this field and the equipment you guys use i was hoping to get some advice as to why or why not you currently use them and what you dont like about it.

According to the information I have gathered thus far, I understand that not many people use it, however if I were to make it a multi-functional device incorporated with a watch,altimeter, barometer would that appeal more to this niche market of users?

I would greatly appreciate any helpful insight from you guys thanks!

coloradotomontana Erley · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2008 · Points: 75

I use pulse oximetry, but not so much for acute interpretations as for long-term trending. For example, I will measure the oximetry before I go to bed and when I wake up to see how I am acclimatizing, and trend that to see when it is best to move. I would not use it to measure throughout the day, however, because it changes drastically depending on your cardiovascular output, which kind of makes it arbitrary IMO. How would it measure the oximetry through a wrist? Seems like it might be a lot of space to shine light through.

Darby · · Snoqualmie, wa · Joined Feb 2010 · Points: 0

I can never get a reading on someone with cold hands. Not enough peripheral circulation. Seems like that would be a glaring problem at altitude.

DrApnea · · Wenatchee, WA · Joined May 2011 · Points: 250

Currently available dedicated pulseox probes are too big and have little utility except maybe at extreme altitude(by big I'm talking about the matchbox size tip of finger ones). Integrating one to an altimeter watch would be a good idea to allow the bulk electronics used for processing to be distributed into a larger area than overlying the tip of the finger. Look at the disposable sticker type pulseox commonly used for surgery. Perhaps this could be integrated into the watch strap or back of watch and the electronics housed in the body. Also understand that the market is small, so targeting watchmakers like suunto to integrate the technology as a heart rate monitor could have more appeal to a greater population. Good luck

also as said above peripheral perfusion decreases when the body is cold due to vasoconstriction. This makes them pretty difficult to use on the tip of the finger at altitude. Theoretically you should be able to get a better reading elsewhere. In the OR we will put them on the forehead, nose, ear, or anywhere they can get a reading. Fingers often are difficult when you are either vasoconstricted or hypovolemic.

coloradotomontana Erley · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2008 · Points: 75

Or incorporate it into the tip of a glove with wireless transmission to a watch that trended it! that would be sick.

DrApnea · · Wenatchee, WA · Joined May 2011 · Points: 250

tip of the finger is used for convience, but not necessarily the best location. Adding a wireless probe on the finger would only increase costs and bulk without improving pulseox signal.

in reference to the use of acclimatization, saturations shouldn't change based on this. pH changes and increased ability to carry O2 (which is based on the ammount of Hb) are what underlie acclimatization. The percent of Hb bound by O2 (saturation) essentially remains constant during acclimatization and is what is measured by a pulseOx.

coldfinger · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 55

The answer is no, the medical one works fine, you turn that into a do everything watch and you defeat the purpose--total waste of time.

They're a good tool to gauge acclimatization and you break it out at night, PASS IT AROUND so everybody gets a reading, and put it away. Put another way, it's a piece of group gear, i.e. no need to bundle that with an altimeter/watch for each person.

You need a bit of expertise to correlate the results with altitude and other environmental, age and health factors. So unless you want to risk a lawsuit, you can't offer any interpretation of the raw data. Besides, then you risk the expense of a microprocessor and all the expense of developing safe software to drive it.

Or put another way, 100% of folks who would have the need (guides and experienced types) will probably already have an altimeter/watch, so why the hell would I buy your device for big $$ when all I need is the pulse oximeter which is cheap and easy.

Or put another way, I already have a Suunto that is way too large and don't think an even bigger watch would be good. Besides, how are you going to incorporate the sensor without compromising the durability and waterproofness of my watch?

Or put another way, I why the hell would you spend the $$ to also develop a new sensor, which you probably would need to do.

If you want to actually make a device that isn't a big-time money loser, I'd look more toward something useful in military and EMS settings, but that can also be used by high altitude types.

Since it would have multiple users on a trip, you might have multifunction logging functions, but then you are increasing the cost, complexity and size of the unit by an order of magnitude.

Maybe you should rethink this project if you are actually trying to make something useful. No need to reinvent the wheel.......

Anyhow good luck!

coldfinger · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 55

PS Just be careful you design a tool that is simple, robust and reliable not just the latest redundant and unnecessary reinvention of old technology simply designed to increase the profit margin of a medical device making company!

Whew!

Kevin Shin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2012 · Points: 10

Pat, Darby, and DrApnea - Through what was mentioned and some research, I saw that the problem of 'cold hands' affecting the reading was a major issue. My current solution(s) for this issue is by incorporating the actual pulse ox reader into one that can either be attached to the earlobe or one that is attached to the temple on the head (through the strap on snow googles or on the frame of sunglasses). Both of which would use bluetooth or some sort of wireless function to transmit data to the main unit, the watch. By incorporating it into a watch, i can seal the circuits and such in so that it can be waterproof. I thought the watch would be a great way to incorporate a pulse reading through the strap and correlate the data between elevation and oxygen saturation. Perhaps using a double screen, one for elevation/pressure and time and a second for a ECG and SO2 reading(?) I will be sure to upload some of my sketches to convey my descriptions a little better!

Coldfinger - I totally understand where you are coming from, saves money and everyone shares one. However, my assignment for this project was to analyze and re-design the pulseox to better fit my target market. EMS and Marines were a good suggestion, but I have other classmates working on those subjects. Personally I wanted to know, "although the current pulseOx is functionally sound, what can be changed to make it a BETTER product for you all (mountain climbers)." whether that be aesthetics, ergonomics, durability, interference with ambient lighting, etc.

Thanks for the awesome feedback and information from you all, I'm learning a great deal from you all in such a short time!

Kevin Shin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2012 · Points: 10
coldfinger wrote:PS Just be careful you design a tool that is simple, robust and reliable not just the latest redundant and unnecessary reinvention of old technology simply designed to increase the profit margin of a medical device making company! Whew!
that is my ultimate goal, something that is intuitive and new.
DannyUncanny · · Vancouver · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 100

How about something built right into the smart phone. Could it be possible to put your thumb over the lens and flash of an iphone and use the flash as the light source and the camera as the photo detector?

Crag Dweller · · New York, NY · Joined Jul 2006 · Points: 125

Why are you designing a device for an application you know very little about? That's a serious question, not a smartass one.

No offense to you but the worst technology always seems to come from people who do not understand how the technology will be used. So, I'm wondering why you have chosen this as a project.

Jimmy344 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 0
Kevin Shin wrote: that is my ultimate goal, something that is intuitive and new.
Kevin, I am a snowboarder and I think this is a great idea for athletes in my department. I would definitely look into buying something like this.

Good luck on your project let me know if you make a prototype.
Buff Johnson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2005 · Points: 1,145
Kevin Shin wrote: second for a ECG and SO2 reading(?)
SpO2. Unless you're looking for alien life forms; which really would be cool.
Kevin Shin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2012 · Points: 10
These are three concept sets I came up wtih.

On the left is the solidworks (digital model) of the watch and on the right is the gps style (handheld) version. Both of which receive the SpO2 reading via bluetooth from the reader (Snow Goggles)

I'm leaning towards the watch and snow goggle set. Using a forehead oximeter reader for SpO2, and using the strap on the watch to receive pulse rate.

But this is about the users, which are you guys! tell me what you guys think! Thanks!
coldfinger · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 55

Well, all I can tell you is that while one is climbing above 18,000 feet one is usually tired and hypoxic enough that all this does is add another layer of confusion, especially as one would have to think hard and have a lot of training to interpret the readings which one poster has pointed out vary greatly anyway.

Strikes me as one of those gee whiz devices, what's it cost?

Chris Plesko · · Westminster, CO · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 485

I have one. I'm only using it to collect data and see if it's useful at all when taking younger children to altitudes up to 14k feet since they can't describe how they feel accurately.

Buff Johnson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2005 · Points: 1,145

sweet! if we're going with the sporty ecg model, make sure we get a fibrillator. I'd like a wireless one so I can to hit people getting in my way to the summit.

cms829 · · NJ · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 90
Buff Johnson wrote:sweet! if we're going with the sporty ecg model, make sure we get a fibrillator. I'd like a wireless one so I can to hit people getting in my way to the summit.
"like"
Derek W · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 20
Buff Johnson wrote:sweet! if we're going with the sporty ecg model, make sure we get a fibrillator. I'd like a wireless one so I can to hit people getting in my way to the summit.
I hope you use the fibrillator sparingly... I'll take mine with the defibrillator add-on... :)
Roy Leggett · · Lyons, CO · Joined Jan 2004 · Points: 270

As a former guide and also having worked in high altitude SAR, I think it's a cool idea. +1 for incorporating a heart rate monitor. I think the combination of HR and SPO2 would appeal to a large population of mountain athletes (Climbers, bikers, skiers, etc.) who are active at any elevation really. I am not too educated in the science of it, but I would imagine it would help them monitor HR, recovery, etc. as it relates to their oximetry, and maybe even allow them to explore their aerobic/anaerobic tolerances. I would also think there would be some practicality for guides and EMS personnel, especially if the HR and SPO2 sensors are remote/wireless and have defined alarm functions.

I recently attended a presentation from Dr. Michael Callahan of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency-www.darpa.mil) and he discussed some of the research and technology that the DOD is developing for altitude affected soldiers in Afghanistan. He also presented on some the advancements of small, durable, lightweight, telemetry devices that are being developed for various EMS purposes (like an incredibly small and lightweight automated ventilator). He might be a good resource to consult. PM me if you want his contact info, or it is also on the DARPA website.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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