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Camera-based early detection of blood poisoning in newborns

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The occurrence of blood poisoning (sepsis) in newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit is one of the most common complications and poses a major threat to mortality and long-term morbidity due to the often unspecific symptoms.  For monitoring purposes, various vital parameters are recorded using contact-based measurement techniques such as ECG and PPG (Photoplethysmogram). Especially the immature skin with the missing subcutis and the associated inefficient barrier to the environment of the neonate represent major problems, whereby this can be additionally injured when changing the adhesive electrodes.

The early detection of an infection is crucial for the prognosis and the success of a therapy. The diagnosis is not made on the basis of a single parameter, but must be determined by time-consuming and personnel-intensive examinations. The use of contactless measurement technology for the continuous monitoring of neonates should therefore relieve the strain on staff and enable infectious conditions to be detected as early as possible.


With the help of a system for camera-based vital parameter monitoring, the first signs of septic shock could be detected automatically. The monitoring of several vital signals is important for this purpose, including in particular heart and respiratory rates and their variability, spatially resolved perfusion, body temperature in different regions of the body, physical activity, etc...

These parameters could be captured by the intelligent fusion of two camera-based measurement methods and thus an early warning parameter could be determined. These are the so-called PPGI (Photoplethysmography Imaging) and infrared thermography. The two camera systems cover different spectral sensitivity ranges and perform different functions. While the PPGI enables the recording of heart rate and perfusion in the tissue and additionally a quantification  of the microcirculation, the infrared thermography indicates the radiation of the body's own heat of the patient. This allows local temperature distributions and central-peripheral gradients to be recorded and analyzed.

The data fusion of the two camera systems could enable the derivation of an early warning parameter directly at the incubator or heat bed in the intensive care unit, which could in future ensure an earlier start of therapy and thus significantly improve the healing and survival chances of the neonates.


  • Clinic for Paediatrics and Youth Medicine, University Hospital RWTH Aachen