Aviation monitoring system adapted to assess vital signs of
critically ill patients
21 August 2012
Researchers from Manchester and Lancaster are investigating
whether system monitoring tools pioneered in aviation security can be
used to help prevent complications in patients after surgery.
A team from the Academic Surgery Unit at University Hospital of
South Manchester is collaborating with Lancaster University to
develop new technology for healthcare based on an aviation security
system designed to give pilots maximum information about the health
of their aircraft and advance warning of problems.
Lancaster University Aviation Security expert Professor Garik
Makarian is drawing on his years of experience to develop a
real-time patient monitoring and risk prediction system, similar to
those used by pilots to monitor the safety of their aircraft.
Professor Garik Makarian said: “There are a lot of parallels
between flying an aircraft and observing a critically ill patient.
Both the surgeon and the pilot are dealing with a lot of information
coming from a variety of sensors. They both need to know not only
what is happening now but what might happen in the future and safety
is absolutely critical.
“During a flight a pilot has to make decisions based on complex
information coming from up to 1,000 sensors in the plane. He or she
needs to know, not only what is happening to the aircraft right at
this moment, but what is likely to happen in the future.
“When a patient is critically ill or recovering from surgery,
doctors monitor the patient’s blood pressure, temperature, pulse and
other vital signs very closely but have to rely on their experience
what is likely to happen next. Pilots have the
additional benefit of tools to help them do that. This new tool has
the potential to give doctors an extra layer of intelligence to draw
The new tool is being designed to make sense of a diverse range
of patient data to provide health care professionals with a clearer
indication of what might happen to their patients in the near
future; buying them precious time to take preventative action.
Doctors can then potentially access this information at any time,
even from home on their laptop or phone.
The tool is in the early stages of development but once up and
running it is hoped that it will have applications in a number of
different healthcare settings.
Professor Charles McCollum said: “The University Hospital of
South Manchester is one of the largest surgical centres in the UK
and our Academic Surgery Unit has a track record in predicting the
risks associated with surgery. This collaboration with Lancaster
University has enormous potential to really benefit patients.“
Dr Stuart Grant, Research Fellow in Surgery, who works on the
project, said: “There are vast amounts of clinical data currently
collected which is not analysed in any meaningful way. This tool has
the potential to identify subtle early signs of complications from
real time data. If the aviation technology can be successfully
transferred to healthcare it has the potential to provide doctors
with information which could improve outcomes for patients.”