Biomedical Optics and Spectrophotometry: Shining a Light on the Future of Health Care

Biomedical optics very well may be the future of our health care industry. Whether you are an athlete, patient, or parent of an infant, biomedical optics will most likely play a significant role in your health care or that of someone you love in the near future. Biomedical optics utilize NIR (near-infrared) spectroscopy in a number of ways and provides a safe, non-invasive, and non-destructive method of analysis for a variety of medical needs.

finger prick biomedical optics
Biomedical optics offer non-invasive alternatives to many healthcare procedures through the use of spectrophotometric technology.
Image Source: Flickr user frankieleon

New medical breakthroughs using NIR spectroscopy

One of the latest breakthroughs in biomedical optics and spectrophotometric technology involves the monitoring of blood oxygen levels and hemoglobin saturation. This area of biomedical optics envelops a large number of applications. For example, spectral technology has revolutionized sports medicine by providing a non-invasive technique for muscle oxygen and hemoglobin saturation monitoring. Using NIR spectroscopy, light reflectance and absorption values can easily be measured directly through the skin to obtain accurate blood oxygen and hemoglobin levels.

This technology is relatively inexpensive and less restrictive than magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Instrumentation is designed to be durable, portable, and lightweight, making it a logical option for nearly any clinical sports medicine facility.  When you consider that NIR light measurements are among the safest methods available, spectroscopy is truly the best option for this application. According to U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, “NIRS can objectively evaluate muscle oxidative metabolism in athletes and its modifications following potential therapeutic strategies and specific training programs.”

blood oxygen levels biomedical optics
The ability to monitor blood oxygen level using NIR spectroscopy plays a vital role in the future of sports medicine.
Image Source: Rogeriopfm – Own work, partly based on File: Grafik blutkreislauf.jpg by Sansculotte, via Wikimedia.org

Other applications of biomedical optics use variations in light absorption to monitor blood oxygenation changes in tissue samples. This has become one of the best alternatives for monitoring oxygenation levels in surgical patients for whom saturation is important in maintaining safe brain function. The use of infrared technology has also provided an innovative method for chronic wound management, by using non-destructive methods to analyze oxygen levels and monitor healing. Without disrupting new cell growth or tissue structure, patients do not have to endure additional suffering or prolonged healing time.

One of the latest and most predominant applications of NIR spectroscopy has been in the neonatal medical care field. NIR spectroscopy provides a non-invasive method that has been proven extremely beneficial for monitoring newborns with critical health conditions. The biggest concern for this patient demographic is the risk of potential brain injury, but new advancements in NIR spectroscopy allow for consistent and objective monitoring of brain functioning. This form of monitoring is ideal for infants because it does not disrupt other medical needs necessary for the treatment of intensive care newborns.

infant biomedical optics
NIR spectroscopy can safely and effectively monitor brain functioning of newborns with critical health concerns.
Image Source: Flickr user Nikki Tysoe

Cutting-edge technology

At HunterLab we are constantly evaluating new innovations in technology and utilizing our knowledge and experience to create products designed specifically to meet industry needs. Biomedical optics is sitting on the cutting-edge of medical technology and NIR spectroscopy is shining a light on the future of our health care options. New methods and research are constantly underway, and HunterLab continually works with researchers and scientists to develop the best instrumentation options for the medical industry. Contact HunterLab today to learn more about how together we can be leaders in the future of medical technology.

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