Signal Processing and Automation in Anesthesia [Life Sciences]
- Guy Albert Dumont
- IEEE Signal Processing Magazine
BACKGROUND Vibro-tactile displays use human skin to convey information from physiological monitors to anesthesiologists, providing cues about changes in the status of the patient. In this investigation, we evaluated, in a real-time clinical environment, the usability and wearability of a novel vibro-tactile display belt recently developed by our group, and determined its accuracy in identifying events when used by anesthesiologists. METHODS A prospective observational study design was used. During routine anesthesia, a standard physiological monitor was connected to a software tool that used algorithms to automatically identify changing trends in mean noninvasive arterial blood pressure, expired minute ventilation, peak airway pressure, and end-tidal carbon dioxide partial pressure. The software was wirelessly interfaced to a vibro-tactile belt worn by the anesthesiologist. Each physiological variable was mapped to 1 of 4 tactor locations within the belt. The direction (increase/decrease) and 2 levels of change (small/large) were encoded in the stimulation patterns. A training session was completed by each anesthesiologist. The system was activated in real-time during anesthesia alongside routine physiological monitors. When the algorithms detected changes in the patient, the belt vibrated at the appropriate location with the pattern corresponding to the level and direction of change. Using a touch screen monitor the anesthesiologist was to enter the vibro-tactile message by first identifying the variable, then identifying the level and direction of change. Usability and wearability questionnaires were to be completed. The percentage of correct identification of the physiological trend, the direction of change, and the level of change were primary outcome variables. The mean usability score and wearability results were secondary outcome variables. We hypothesized that anesthesiologists would correctly identify the events communicated to them through the vibro-tactile belt 90% of the time, and that anesthesiologists would find the vibro-tactile belt usable and wearable. RESULTS Seventeen anesthesiologists evaluated the display during 57 cases. The belt was operational for a mean (SD) duration of 75 (41) minutes per case. Seven cases were excluded from analysis because of technical failures. Eighty-one percent (confidence interval [CI], 77% to 84%) of all stimuli were decoded. The physiological trend, the direction of change, and the level of change were correctly identified for 97.7% (CI 96%-99%), 94.9% (CI 92%-97%), and 93.5% of these stimuli (CI, 91%-96%), respectively. Fourteen anesthesiologists completed the usability and wearability questionnaires. The mean usability score was 4.8 of a maximum usability score of 7. CONCLUSIONS Anesthesiologists found a vibro-tactile belt to be wearable and usable and could accurately decode vibro-tactile messages in a real-time clinical environment.