Novel non-invasive assessment of respiratory function (NORM)

NORM was an NHS National Institute of Health Research project, funded under the Invention for Innovation (i4i) scheme, and began in June 2009. It was a short term (one year) feasibility study.


Respiratory function testing is uncommon among patients across all ages - no appropriate assessment tool exists.

For children with respiratory or fatigue related disorders (for example, muscular dystrophies), effort dependent procedures requiring coordination and cooperation can be challenging. Preventing accurate monitoring of the disease process.

Bedside methods often rely on methodologies prone to error. There is currently no non-invasive accurate system, requiring minimal cooperation to monitor or assess respiratory function applicable to all ages. This impedes studies of directly comparable (as opposed to directly related) data from childhood to adulthood.


We are developing a novel, non-invasive method for non-contact assessment of respiratory muscle function. Through monitoring changes in the three-dimensional surface details of the human torso in real time.

An optical system captures and tracks all motion details of the chest and abdomen walls, recording 3D shape and dimensional variation of the body dynamically during breathing.

A model is being developed to correlate measurement data with respiratory muscle function. The system is initially designed for the use on adult patients and could be adapted for use on children (after appropriate following-up research and testing).

The system could be used to monitor or diagnose neurological, muscle motion and respiratory system disorders.

Current Development

  • Lighting characterization
  • System setup
  • Data acquisition software

Potential impact

For the NHS, it could be:

  • Cheaper; no consumables, dedicated lab space or on-site technical support.
  • Allows specialist treatment assessment/monitoring in community.
  • Simple to operate, enables telemedicine support by specialist centre.
  • Continuous monitoring allows more detailed assessment.
  • Local use reduces hospital appointments, saving time and costly investigations, for example polysomnography.
  • Better assessment of respiratory deterioration allows more timely preventive/rescue therapy; reduced long term NHS demands.

The impact on patients may be:

  • Reduced stress.
  • Local use - no need to attend specialist centre.
  • Improves diagnostic timeliness/accuracy, impacting on health/recovery; no mask, mouthpiece, or volitional component, so suitable for younger patients.
  • Non-invasive, suitable for monitoring in critical care.


For further information, please email Lyndon Smith at or call +44 (0)117 32 82009.

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