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Signal Processing and Automation in Anesthesia [Life Sciences]

To anyone who has seen or been to an operating room (OR) or an intensive care unit (ICU), it is obvious that monitoring technology plays an increasingly important role in such clinical settings. This proliferation of monitors and devices means that clinicians in the OR or the ICU must absorb, integrate, and interpret a large amount of data to make clinical decisions. This often results in an information overload that may be detrimental to the effectiveness of decision making under critical conditions. In other areas of activity, such as in the aviation industry, advances in technologies such as signalprocessing, feature extraction, smart alarm systems, human?computer interfaces, and automation have helped the human operator deal with critical events by increasing situation awareness.

In the OR, and particularly in the ICU, where the early detection of deterioration of critically ill patients could significantly reduce preventable morbidity, mortality, and cost, the introduction of such methodologies may be essential to increase patient safety. In addition to a brief description of the state-of-the-art approaches, this column reviews some of the efforts my research group at the University of British Columbia (BC) and BC Children?s Hospital has performed over the last decade to address those issues, starting with the OR, concentrating on anesthesia.