Press release: Southampton researchers use novel checkerboard breathing test

Checkerboard breathing pattern - web

Researchers in Southampton are using a novel contactless test which provides accurate natural breathing pattern measurements in asthma patients.

It involves projecting a checkerboard light onto patients’ chests to record movements which are then processed via computer and made into a 3D model – all within five minutes.

The technology, known as structured light plethysmography and developed by Pneumacare, is currently being trialled on patients at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.

The results will be compared to currently-used methods such as spirometry or peak flow, devices which require patients to blow forcefully into a mouthpiece to measure how fast they breathe out.

Asthma is a common lung condition which causes breathing difficulties due to symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.

It affects people of all ages and there are 5.4 million people currently receiving treatment for asthma in the UK, with around 10% suffering from the most severe form which leaves them unable to control their symptoms.

“Having control over their condition is a major goal for people with asthma,” explained Panagiotis Sakkatos, a respiratory physiotherapist PhD student at the University of Southampton’s faculty of health sciences.

“Many use inhalers and steroids to do this, but having an early indicator of when their asthma is getting worse or better is important to optimise their control of it.”

He said while current techniques and devices to monitor breathing patterns worked well alongside medication, the aim was to develop the ability to monitor patients without exacerbating their symptoms – particularly in those with severe asthma.

“Using the checkerboard test, patients are able to breathe naturally while their respiratory patterns are recorded and without the need for a facemask or mouthpiece, allowing normal movements to be tracked,” said Mr Sakkatos.

“As the only non-invasive, contactless device available to accurately measure abdominal and chest movements, we hope patients will be more willing to use this method compared to current tests that can exacerbate their condition.”

The study is being funded by the British Lung Foundation and Wessex Medical Trust.

Anyone who wants to find out more about the device or any asthma patient aged 18 or over who would like to be involved in the study can contact the research team by email at or on 07492 315 767 (during office hours).

Posted on Monday 4 June 2018