March 1, 2008 Electrical engineers use multiple wavelengths of light to see through the skin in order to measure the amount of carbon monoxide in the blood. This approach enables first responders and doctors to quickly analyze the blood of someone with flu-like symptoms for carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless toxic gas that kills or injures thousands of unsuspecting victims each year. Now, there's a quick, easy, painless way to detect carbon monoxide poisoning and it's already saving lives in hospitals across the country.
Janet Capron was best friends with her mom Jill. "We talked on the phone every day. She was the best company. She was one of the smartest people I knew," says Capron.
Two years ago, Jill died.
"She kept saying, 'I have some kind of really strange virus.' She was complaining of bad headaches and pain in her chest," says Capron.
There was no heart disease, no diabetes, no cancer -- Jill's blood was poisoned by carbon monoxide from a leak in her condo building.
"She had presented with all the classic symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and yet, they never tested her," says Capron.
Up to 50 percent of people with carbon monoxide poisoning are misdiagnosed.
"People complain of headaches. They complain of weakness. They complain of dizziness," says Mary Russell, R.N., an emergency room nurse at Boca Raton Community Hospital in Boca Raton, Fla.
Lab blood tests for carbon monoxide poisoning are costly, invasive and often overlooked. But if electrical engineer Mohammed Diab has his way, it won't be missed again. His new device, called the Rad 57, detects carbon monoxide quickly and easily.
"With this device, it is painless, very simple. It gives you the results in seconds," says Mohammed Diab, B.S., an electrical engineer at Masimo Corporation in Irvine, Calif. It uses multiple wavelengths of light to see through the skin to measure the percentage of carbon monoxide in the blood.
"With the widespread use of this device, a lot of the cases that go unreported would be detected early," says Diab.
It's already in nurse Russell's emergency room. "We are using it as a triage tool. There is no question, it's life-saving," says Russell.
Janet knows it could have saved her mom. "If they had tested her for carbon monoxide poisoning, they could have reversed whatever was going on," says Capron.
For now, Janet keeps her mom's memory alive with pictures ... and books. Her mom was writing her fourth novel when she died.
The device is currently being used in about 2,000 hospitals, fire departments and EMS units across the country. Most hospitals should have no problem getting the new detection system -- it only costs about $3,000.
WHAT IS CARBON MONOXIDE? Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and deadly gas. It reduces the flow of oxygen in the bloodstream and can cause brain damage. It is emitted by cars and contributes to pollution.
ANOTHER NON-INVASIVE TECHNIQUE: Another way to look at blood flow--using the body's natural magnetic properties. A technique called magnetic resonance imaging uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to take clear and detailed pictures of internal organs and tissues. Its newest improvement, fMRI, uses this technology in real time to identify regions of the brain where blood vessels are expanding, chemical changes are taking place, or extra oxygen is being delivered. These are indications that a particular part of the brain is processing information and giving commands to the body.
As a patient performs a particular task, the metabolism will increase in the brain area responsible for that task, changing the signal in the MRI image. So by performing specific tasks that correspond to different functions, scientists can locate the part of the brain that governs that function.
Editor's Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.