The lightweight garment can deliver life-saving shocks to patients experiencing serious heart problems.
Biomedical engineering students at Johns Hopkins University have created a wearable defibrillator that could be worn by those at risk of heart attacks. Built around a sleek and lightweight vest, it’s an attempt to replace current clunky personal defibrillator designs that are worn on a harness around the neck.
The concealed shirt-like garment can deliver life-saving shocks to patients experiencing serious heart problems. The student team was tasked with developing a system that would lead to greater compliance among patients.
The project was sponsored and mentored by Todd J. Cohen, who earned his undergraduate and medical degrees at Johns Hopkins and is now director of electrophysiology at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, New York. The students replaced the existing harness-style design with a more comfortable garment that looks like a vest. It is made of a waterproof fabric that is thin, breathable, stretchable, and easy to clean.
The new vest can be worn underneath a patient’s clothes and the electrical components (capable of delivering a 200-joule shock) are encased in thin pockets on the sides. The standard bulky control box was replaced with a more compact wireless device worn on the wrist. It helps patients by giving them a 30-second warning to stop an impending shock if the system has been activated by a false alarm. Sandya Subramanian, a Johns Hopkins junior who led the undergraduate team, said:
In two studies, up to 20 percent of patients who received the defibrillator garment that’s already available did not keep it on all the time because of comfort and appearance issues, problems sleeping in it, and frequent ‘maintenance alarms,’ which occur when the device does not get a good signal from sensors on the patient’s skin. For our class project, we set out to address these issues and design a device that heart patients would be more likely to wear for longer periods of time—because their lives may depend on it.
The students’ prototype recently won a $10,000 first prize in a competition sponsored by the North American Professionals and Entrepreneurs Council. They have completed preliminary testing at the Johns Hopkins Hospital Simulation Center and plan to continue to refine the design and confer with medical device makers about advancing the project.