SmartWatch to Detect Seizures and Alert Caregivers

Parents raising children with seizures all share a major concern; their child will have a seizure without their knowledge, especially at night when they are sleeping. This fear can lead to many sleepless nights. New technology developed by SmartMonitor, a San Jose based company, may be able to put some of these fears to rest. The company has developed a prototype called the “SmartWatch” which appears to be promising.

The battery-operated device looks like a watch. It is usually worn on the wrist, but can be worn on the arm, ankle, or leg if the movement of one of these limbs is more intense during a seizure. It was designed to detect patterns in limb movement which are similar to the movements experienced when a person has a grand mal seizure. Once movement is detected (within 4 to 5 seconds), the SmartWatch sends a message within 7 to 10 seconds to a designated caregiver’s cell phone or e-mail. However, the device must be within 20 feet of a Bluetooth-enabled device to work.

Besides alerting caregivers of possible seizure activity, the device also records valuable information about the patient’s seizures. Neurologists and epileptologists ask caregivers to document when seizures occur and how long they last so they can establish an appropriate medication protocol. Now they can retrieve this data from the SmartWatch.

The initial clinical trial was done at Stanford University. Patients were admitted to Stanford Medical Center and were given the device to wear. There were some false alarms during the study, but they usually occurred while the patient was awake. However, one drawback to the device is that the battery life is less than 24 hours. During the entire trial, only one seizure went undetected by the SmartWatch and the reason cited for the failure was a dead battery in the device.

Stanford University’s initial study was successful and provided valuable information for fine-tuning the device. This past December, the Epilepsy Foundation and the Epilepsy Therapy Project awarded SmartMonitor a $400,000 grant to fund further studies and marketing of the device. A newer prototype with a longer battery life will be tested at Stanford. Additionally, efforts are being made to make the look of the device more stylish.

The company is currently recruiting applicants in the Bay area for its second study which will test the device in participants’ homes. The SmartWatch does not claim to predict seizures; its purpose is to alert caregivers that a seizure has occurred. The expectation is to give caregivers some peace of mind when they go to sleep at night.

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