Issys-MEMS-sensor

MEMS vendor Integrated Sensing Systems, Inc. (ISSYS) announced, “that the U.S Patent Office has granted a patent entitled “Wireless
MEMS Capacitive Sensor for Physiologic Parameter Measurement” (US Patent No. 6,926,670) which covers the design, manufacturing, and anchoring of miniature, wireless, batteryless, implantable sensors.” (press release – pdf) The summary from the patent:

The invention comprises a telemetric sensing system for
noninvasively monitoring pressure and/or pressure gradients in a
cardiac conduit. The system includes one or more implantable sensor
unit(s) and a companion reader unit. The sensor unit, which is
preferably batteryless and wireless is chronically located within the
conduit, or around in a close proximity. For valveless conduits, a
sensor unit is placed at either end of the conduit, or around it. For
valved conduits, one or more sensor units are located both proximal and
distal to the valve, allowing the pressure gradient across the valve to
be monitored. One sensor unit can indicate occlusion; however, two
sensor units will allow the occlusion to be located (e.g.
proximal/middle/distal along the conduit). As well, with two sensor
units, flow rates may be deduced or estimated. Furthermore, trend
analysis of the pressures and/or flow rate within the conduit can allow
a time-to-failure estimate.

New Scientist has a nice description of the clinical application:

The implant, the size of a grain of rice, is one of a new breed of
medical devices that requires no batteries. A radio transmitter and
receiver held near the body provides the power and interrogates the
implant.

The
device is designed for people with congestive heart failure, where
fluid builds up in organs and limbs because the heart fails to pump
enough blood around the body. There are now more than half a million
new cases each year in the US alone.

The
condition is usually treated with drugs, and to ensure they are working
doctors sometimes have to measure the pressure inside the left atrium
of the heart.

At
the moment, this can only be done by temporarily inserting a catheter
into the heart, via an artery in the arm or leg. In some patients this
unpleasant and costly operation has to be done three times a year.

But
with the new implant a similar operation would only have to be done
once, to place the sensor inside the left atrium, says Nader Najafi,
head of Integrated Sensing Systems (ISSYS) in Ypsilanti, Michigan, the
company developing the implant.

Next thing you know, they'll be generating continuous waveforms from implants like this. Pictured right is the implantable wireless pressure sensor.