Stick-on medical monitors could save climbers' lives
SCIENTISTS and mountain rescue experts are hoping to develop mobile phone technology to monitor casualties' vital signs and save lives on Scottish hills.
Researchers at Aberdeen University are working with their American counterparts to design equipment they can stick to stricken climbers like a patch.
They are collaborating with the Centre for the Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology (Cimit) in Boston, which has pioneered the development of miniaturised physiologic monitors for the military and emergency rooms.
The 50,000 project to create a "wireless casualty" is being led by Alasdair Mort, a physiologist based at the Centre for Rural Health in Inverness. He is consulting rescue services to find out what is needed "when it's -10C, blowing a gale and the team can't see a thing".
He said: "They want something simple, robust and reliable, that they can turn on in the worst conditions and it will work first time.
"It might be difficult to get something perfect. It could be quite expensive. That's why we are going out to speak to manufacturers. To do that, we need to produce a wants list."
The idea is to attach the tiny patch monitor to the casualty and then continually check him remotely, using mobile phone wireless technology.
The monitor would be able to measure vital signs such as blood pressure and alert medics back at a hospital base to changing symptoms.
Mr Mort, a lecturer at Aberdeen and Dundee Universities who is undertaking the research for a PhD study, said:
"It has to be cost-effective. What Cimit are working towards is something that costs $5 a patch. Once it's been made and mass-produced, the cost could come down again."
The keen hillwalker added: "We are extremely grateful to all those who have assisted with the research so far, including the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland, rescue teams, helicopter crews and medical staff."
David Allan, chairman of Mountain Rescue England and Wales, said the equipment could be of particular use in Scotland, where casualties were often in remote areas in terrible weather.
He said: "(Mr Mort] first came to our attention a year ago when he came and gave a presentation at a mountain rescue medical seminar in the Lake District. He presented his stuff and clearly it was of great interest.
"It's not of interest to the whole of mountain rescue because for those who deal with a very small geographical area it's of limited relevance. If you can get someone off the hill within an hour, the importance of monitoring them is less.
"It is of much greater relevance in places like the Cairngorms, where you may even have to go to ground for a few hours with the casualty. Then this stuff is really, really important. The more removed the area, the more important it is. The other time it's important is when the weather's really bad and helicopters can't fly."
He said that some years ago, attempts were made to develop similar equipment but the technology was not far enough advanced and it failed.
28 The number of volunteer mountain rescue teams in Scotland
23 The number of civilian rescue teams
2 The number of RAF teams
3 The number of police teams
406 The number of call-outs to mountain rescues in 2006
159 How many injured people were helped by teams in 2006
41 Fatalities on Scottish mountains in 2006
15 The approximate percentage of casualties between 2002 and 2006 who had a head injury
20 Percentage involved in incidents who are students
85 Percentage in accidents who are not part of a club or group
52 Percentage not from Scotland
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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