PMC Clinical Research Study Uses Fitness Device to Monitor Patient’s Recovery After Surgery

Background

The student intern program at PHLBI was established in 2016 to allow students to have on the site training at PHLBI’s in-house laboratory.  When students are not assisting Lead Researcher Ray Wong they are encouraged to engage in their own research projects.  One such project is clinical research centered on measuring a patient’s recovery after surgery led by student intern Blair Kimble.  Kimble has worked closely with PHLBI staff to recruit patients and monitor their recovery by loaning them FitBit devices that in turn will monitor how much activity they are getting, how much they are sleeping, what their heart rate is, and other valuable health information items on the patient.  Below Kimble discusses her project at greater length including what she hopes the research will ultimately demonstrate.

About the Study

When a surgery is successful, its success is not determined as the incisions are closed up. A surgery is a success when the patient has a smooth recovery and can return back to their daily lives. The comfort and recovery of a patient is a top priority for physicians, but the amount of time available every day to evaluate that recovery is incredibly limited. In having such a small window in which to evaluate a patients progress, a physician may not be able to see everything relevant.

With PHLBI’s newest clinical research project, we have designed a way we hope to measure patient recovery. In giving patients a Fitbit® activity monitor, we are able to collect data about their walking, their heart rate, and their sleep both before and after surgery. Using their data from before surgery as a baseline for their activity, we are then able to track how quickly they return to that normal baseline after surgery.

This research investigates some of the first quantitative measures of surgical patient recovery ever collected. Until now, recovery has been evaluated subjectively, but with objective data, we may be able to correlate certain kinds of physiological factors with a faster discharge from the hospital and smooth recovery after going home from the hospital. We expect that constant monitoring of patients in a quantitative, objective manner will be a more reliable and complete representation of their recovery than anything that has been collected before.

We are currently in the pilot portion of the research, focusing on making sure the data collected is accurate. We plan to soon move on to running a randomized trial where some patients will get access to their activity data measured by the Fitbit® and some will not. This will allow us to compare the pace of recovery between those who get feedback and those who not and hopefully show that the quantitative data is motivating for patients. We hope to ultimately demonstrate that with an activity monitor, we can help patients recover to their own baseline of activity faster and return to their daily life.

About the Author

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Blair Kimble is a third year undergraduate student at UCLA. She has been working at PHLBI for two years and has spent one year developing this clinical research. She also does immunotherapy research and plans to apply to medical school this summer. Blair practices martial arts and loves to cook.

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