Monitoring Newborn Babies with Novel Contactless Optical Imaging Techniques
This project was allocated in academic year 2015-16
Newborn babies are delicate, especially those born pre-maturely. However, many of them often require a series of tests to assess their health which could be uncomfortable and even painful (e.g. blood sampling), leading to mental distress on both babies and parents. While in many situations these tests are inevitable for the benefit of the babies, we believe some tests can be replaced by novel optical imaging techniques without compromising the level of care. We have been investigating contactless optical imaging techniques to monitor the condition of newborn babies in order to minimise any physical contact and at the same time provide a cost-effective alternative solution. We have just started a clinical study in the neonatal unit of UCL Hospitals involving taking photos of babies’ eyes to quantify the colour of the sclera (the white part of the eye) which could indicate whether a baby is pathologically jaundiced. Currently, the screening of neonatal jaundice requires a blood sampling test which could potentially be avoided using this new technique. We are also investigating a new way to monitor skin perfusion, which in turn could provide early diagnosis of sepsis in newborn babies, by measuring the tiny arterial pulsations on the skin using a consumer grade digital camera. Our research focus covers a wide range of methodologies including developing image processing algorithms to extract physiological information, optimising the way light illuminates the human body to facilitate image acquisition, and modelling light transport in tissue and skin. Our overall aim is to develop contactless sensing and imaging techniques to monitor the health of newborn babies with minimal disruption of their daily lives.