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Biomed Eng Online. 2011 Oct 20;10:93. doi: 10.1186/1475-925X-10-93.

Neonatal non-contact respiratory monitoring based on real-time infrared thermography.

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Philips Chair for Medical Information Technology, RWTH Aachen University, Pauwelsstr, 20, 52074 Aachen, Germany.



Monitoring of vital parameters is an important topic in neonatal daily care. Progress in computational intelligence and medical sensors has facilitated the development of smart bedside monitors that can integrate multiple parameters into a single monitoring system. This paper describes non-contact monitoring of neonatal vital signals based on infrared thermography as a new biomedical engineering application. One signal of clinical interest is the spontaneous respiration rate of the neonate. It will be shown that the respiration rate of neonates can be monitored based on analysis of the anterior naris (nostrils) temperature profile associated with the inspiration and expiration phases successively.


The aim of this study is to develop and investigate a new non-contact respiration monitoring modality for neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) using infrared thermography imaging. This development includes subsequent image processing (region of interest (ROI) detection) and optimization. Moreover, it includes further optimization of this non-contact respiration monitoring to be considered as physiological measurement inside NICU wards.


Continuous wavelet transformation based on Debauches wavelet function was applied to detect the breathing signal within an image stream. Respiration was successfully monitored based on a 0.3°C to 0.5°C temperature difference between the inspiration and expiration phases.


Although this method has been applied to adults before, this is the first time it was used in a newborn infant population inside the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The promising results suggest to include this technology into advanced NICU monitors.

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