Earpiece detects and warns of epileptic seizures

EPItect is a sensor for accurate detection of epileptic seizures

Timely detection of epileptic seizures is crucial in order to give the patient the care they need. Electroencephalography is only available in hospitals, but as the sensor market expands in tandem with mobile technology, it was only a matter of time until a small, portable system would be developed. We have already seen the Embrace smartwatch, and now a German consortium headed by a team of epileptologists at the University Hospital Bonn is working to launch a new consumer option in the near future.

Called EPItect, the sensor can be worn by the patient like a hearing aid, which will pick up and measure any telltale signs of impending seizures. It will then send the information via a connected smartphone to a central computer that checks and confirms any abnormal behavior patterns and finally sends out a warning to relevant parties such as patients, relatives, and attending physicians.

Munich-based Cosinuss, a consortium member company, has already developed the sensor in the shape of an earbud. "In a preliminary study, we found that epileptic seizures can be detected very well via an accelerated pulse and certain patterns of movement", says Dr. Rainer Surges, project coordinator.

The plan is to further miniaturize and improve the design.

Epileptic seizures can be very dangerous, sometimes resulting in serious accidents and even death by cardiac arrest. The problem with detecting them is that symptoms vary enormously. Twitching is the most typical, but many other signs can occur such as smacking the lips, fumbling with clothing for no apparent reason and passing out momentarily. They can also occur during sleep.

Besides making life safer for patients, the researchers say EPItect can help physicians make better diagnoses because of the more accurate record of the frequency and severity of seizures. It could also help researchers develop improved therapies. If used in clinical studies, the mini-sensor could, for instance, provide more reliable data on the most effective drugs to reduce seizures.

The sensor is targeted at both adult and young patients. The consortium, which has received €2 million in subsidies from the German government as well as support from private enterprises, plans to have the device available for clinical trials with selected patients in a few years before broadening the study to a larger group of patients.

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