Studies attempting to define the role of the respiratory tract in heating and humidifying inspired air point to the need for sensing many variables including airway wall and airstream temperatures, humidity, and surface fluid pH and osmolarity. In order to make such measurements in vivo in human volunteers, catheter based technologies must be exploited both to assure subject safety and subject comfort. Miniturization of the electrodes or sensors becomes a top priority. This paper describes the use of thin-film microelectronic technology to fabricate a miniature, flexible sensor which can be placed directly onto the surface of the airway to measure the electrical conductance of the fluids present. From this information the osmolarity of the surface fluid was calculated. Physiologic evaluation of the device and corroboration of the calculations was performed in mongrel dogs. We also describe the successful application of current thermistor technology for the thermal mapping of the airways in humans in order to characterize the dynamic intrathoracic events that occur during breathing. The thermal probe consisted of a flexible polyvinyl tube that contained fourteen small thermistors fixed into the catheter. Data have been obtained in dozens of people, both normal subjects and asthmatic patients, under a variety of interventions. These data have substantively advanced the study of asthma, a particularly troublesome chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.
J M Fouke,
K G Saunders,
"Catheter-Based Sensing In The Airways", Proc. SPIE 0904, Microsensors and Catheter-Based Imaging Technology, (8 April 1988); doi: 10.1117/12.945237; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.945237