A new miniature medical electric needle system for monitoring and retrieving medical data from patients was produced by Ph.D. candidate Kiseok Song, working under KAIST Professor Hoi-Jun Yoo. The system involves needles that are connected to a chip the size of a coin, which contains electronics that can monitor and detect changes in a patient’s body.
The use of electric needles is part of a new method of acupuncture where low-frequency electric pulses are emitted from the needles to treat muscles and part the nervous system. Some practitioners use them as a method of breaking down fat in patients as well. However, unlike previous electric needles, instead of relying on a patient’s subjective opinion on whether they feel better or not the chip can receive feedback and extract scientific data, such as body temperature or muscle electroconductivity, which enables the medical staff to make decisions based on objective information. The new needles developed at KAIST are also 100 times cheaper and much more effective at what they do. They can operate continuously for an hour using only the electricity provided by a small coin battery.
The chip uses what the research team calls a “Planar Fashionable Circuit Board” to miniaturize the entire system so it can be affixed to the patient. Placing the entire system on the patient makes complex wiring unnecessary.
Professor Yoo commented that the system has changed the face of acupuncture and needle-based treatments by introducing scientific precision to a previously imprecise discipline. He went on to further state that his student’s findings have paved the path for traditional oriental medicine to find modern, scientific methods to improve itself.
The research findings were presented in February’s International Solid-State Circuits Conference, an event organized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and held in San Francisco. The theme of this year’s conference was “Silicon Systems for Stability,” and emphasized how electronics technology can contribute to future sustainable systems.