Low-Cost ECG Electrodes for Local Manufacture in Ethiopia

Presenter: Andrew Lopreiato

Research Category: Engineering and Technology
College: College of Engineering
Major(s): Mechanical Engineering
Graduation Date: 2023
Additional Authors: Caitlynn Tov
Award: Entrepreneurship

For populations in low-resource countries, access to proper healthcare is often hindered due to lack of functional medical equipment. In these settings, realistic equity requires adjustment of traditional engineering design priorities to maximize usability and benefit to the healthcare facility. Minimalism, efficiency, and on-the-ground practical value must be prioritized over the urge to design complicated or state-of-the-art equipment. Northeastern University Innovators for Global Health (NU-IGH) is focused on improving global access to medical technology. Students in NU-IGH have a partnership with St. PaulÕs Hospital Millenium Medical College (SPHMMC), a hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Four undergraduate students and a faculty mentor traveled to the hospital in March 2020 to conduct a preliminary assessment of engineering needs, interviewing hospital employees across multiple departments and levels of administrative hierarchy. The group observed a hospital-wide shortage in electrocardiogram (EKG) placement electrodes/stickers. Clinicians tape lead wires directly to their patientsÕ skin, resulting in noisy EKG signals and loose wires. Undergraduate students in NU-IGH translated the design constraints from the needs assessment into a functional EKG prototype. A literature search was implemented to examine current designs and then two main types of designs were identified before deciding to move forward with a suction bulb design. A prototype was constructed and carried through multiple iterations to improve functionality and accessibility of parts. The students have contacted manufacturers in Ethiopia to ensure the design can be fabricated abroad, and more work is being done to make the design MRI compatible.