Portable respiratory monitor detects life-threatening lung disease

The research team expects that the portable breath tester to lead to higher survival rates and lower medical costs for people with the potentially life-threatening lung condition.

90% accuracy of ARDS detections achieved

Researchers have developed a portable breath tester that can quickly and accurately detect signs of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The research team expects this to lead to higher survival rates and lower medical costs for people with the potentially life-threatening lung condition.

Timely diagnosis and detection of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a major challenge as the disease changes rapidly and can be attributed to many different causes. Professor Xudong Fan of the University of Michigan, USA, and the main author of the study said that at present "the regular tools that predict ARDS are only correct in 18% of cases.

With the fully automatic, portable breathing monitor, however, researchers were able to diagnose ARDS with 90% accuracy in 30 minutes. The research team tested the new invention with 48 volunteers treated at the University of Michigan hospital. 21 of the volunteers had ARDS. Professor Fan remarked: "We found that patients were highly likely to have ARDS if our device detected the disease.

A new tool for diagnosing and monitoring the disease

The technology in the newly developed device uses gas chromatography to examine almost 100 different molecules during exhalation. The breath sample is held in a tube connected to the exhalation point of a mechanical ventilator. The results allow physicians not only to test patients for acute lung failure but also to determine how far the disease has progressed. The progress of treatment after diagnosis can also be recorded.

Professor Fan further explained: "We are now able to detect the onset and progression of the disease before typical changes occur on X-rays or in blood tests".

Better chances of recovery through early detection

Early detection of ARDS is the key to improving the likelihood and quality of healing. Professor Kevin R. Ward, a co-author of the study, commented: "The possibility of improving the management of ARDS has so far been limited by a lack of technologies that can rapidly provide an early and accurate diagnosis of the disease and its progression.”

To date, ARDS has been diagnosed mainly by X-ray or invasive blood tests. Professor Ward explained that "all previous methods led to the late treatment of the disease. By using the exhaled air with the technology we developed, we can solve this problem. In addition, the tester gives us the opportunity to treat ARDS earlier and to develop much more targeted medical therapies." In addition, Dr. Fan's research team sees the possibility of further developing the device so that other lung diseases such as pneumonia, asthma or sepsis can also be diagnosed and tracked more quickly.

Zhou M et al., Rapid breath analysis for acute respiratory distress syndrome diagnostics using a portable two-dimensional gas chromatography device. Anal Bioanal Chem 2019: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00216-019-02024-5