University of Washington (UW) researchers have developed a cellphone app designed to detect when a person is overdosing from opioids and contact someone with naloxone to intervene. The app is intended to save people from opioid overdose, an epidemic that kills about 115 people each day.
“We’re experiencing an unprecedented epidemic of deaths from opioid use, and it’s unfortunate because these overdoses are completely reversible phenomena if they’re detected in time,” said Dr. Jacob Sunshine, an assistant professor of anesthesiology and pain medicine at UW School of Medicine.
The Second Chance app uses an algorithm that allows smart phones to detect overdoses by monitoring how the user’s breathing changes before and after opioid use by sending inaudible sound waves from the phone to people’s chests. Those sound waves are monitored for specific breathing patterns such as when a person stops breathing or when the person’s breathing rate drops to seven breaths per minute or lower.
“Less than eight breaths per minute is a common cutoff point in a hospital that would trigger people to go to the bedside and make sure the patient is OK,” Sunshine said.
The app also monitors how people move to detect characteristic motions during opioid overdose, like the person’s head slumping or nodding off. In an event of an overdose, the phone calls someone with naloxone for help.
The app was tested using the first on-site legal supervised consumption of opioids in North America. Participants wore monitors on their chests that tracked their breathing rates and were then told to prepare their drugs as they normally did. The participants were tracked just before administering their drugs to establish a baseline value. Then their breathing and movements were monitored afterward.
Of the 94 participants, 47 had a breathing rate of seven breaths per minute or lower, 49 stopped breathing for a significant amount of time, and two suffered an overdose that required oxygen, ventilation and/or naloxone treatment. On average, the app correctly identified breathing problems 90 percent of the time.
Researchers are applying for approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and plan to commercialize the technology through a UW program called Sound Life Sciences Inc.
Source: Science Daily