A wearable biosensor has been shown to detect consistent physiological patterns after opioid administration, which could eventually provide a new method of opioid monitoring.

The researchers enrolled 30 subjects who presented at an emergency department (ED) with a pain-related complaint.1 Enrollment took place over 4 months. Each subject wore the Q biosensor (Affectiva) – a 4x5cm sensor secured with a Velcro band – before, during and after opioid analgesic administration.

Patients were divided into heavy users – those with chronic daily opioid use – and non-heavy users. Locomotive, skin temperature and electrodermal activity were all monitored.  

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Results showed a significant and consistent change in the subject’s skin temperature post-administration, compared with baseline (<.001). Furthermore, average movement parameters decreased significantly (<.05). Regarding electrodermal activity, no significant changes were noted from baseline to post-administration.

Between the 2 categories of users, heavy users had a greater relative decrease in small movements immediately after opioid administration. However, there were no significant differences between groups for skin temperature and electrodermal activity.

“The patterns may be useful to detect episodes of opioid use in real time,” said Stephanie Carreiro, MD, Professor at the University of Massachusetts and lead author of the study. This ability could help manage pain during treatment.

“Further study is needed to evaluate the potential diagnostic and interventional applications of these devices in drug abuse treatment and pain management,” concludes the study.

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  1. Carreiro S, Wittbold K, Indic P, Fang H, Zhang J, Boyer EW. Wearable Biosensors to Detect Physiologic Change During Opioid Use. J Med Toxicol. 2016.

This article originally appeared on MPR