It is critical for patients with kidney failure who require dialysis to remove fluid at the correct rate and stop at the correct time. This usually entails estimating how much water to remove and closely monitoring the patient for any sudden drops in blood pressure. There is currently no reliable, simple method for measuring hydration levels in these patients, who number around 500,000 in the United States. Researchers have now developed a hydration sensor that uses nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) relaxometry to accurately measure patients’ hydration levels.
A device like this could be useful for dialysis patients and people with congestive heart failure, athletes, and the elderly at risk of becoming dehydrated. Many patient populations need to know whether they have too much or too little water. This allows them to directly measure each patient’s proximity to a normal hydration state.
Because no imaging is involved, the portable hydration sensor device uses the same technology as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners. Still, it can obtain measurements at a fraction of the cost and in less time. The device can monitor elderly people who frequently become dehydrated as their sense of thirst diminishes with age, as well as athletes competing in marathons or other endurance events.