Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Paul Wetzel


Oral feeding competency is a primary requirement for preterm infant hospital release. Currently there is no widely accepted method to objectively measure oral feeding. Feeding consists primarily of the integration of three individual feeding events: sucking, breathing, and swallowing, and the objective of feeding coordination is to minimize aspiration. The purpose of this work was to quantify the infant feeding process from signals obtained during bottle feeding and ultimately develop a measure of feeding coordination. Sucking was measured using a pressure transducer embedded within a modified silicone bottle block. Breathing was measured using a thermistor embedded within nasal cannula, and swallowing was measured through the use of several different piezoelectric sensors. In addition to feeding signals, electrocardiogram (ECG) signals were obtained as an indicator of overall infant behavioral state during feeding. Event detection algorithms for the individual feeding signals were developed and validated, then used for the development of a measurement of feeding coordination. The final suck event detection algorithm was the result of an iterative process that depended on the validity of the signal model. As the model adapted to better represent the data, the accuracy and specificity of the algorithm improved. For the breath signal, however, the primary barrier to effective event detection was significant baseline drift. The frequency components of the baseline drift overlapped significantly with the breath event frequency components, so a time domain solution was developed. Several methods were tested, and it was found that the acceleration vector of the signal provided the most robust representation of the underlying breath signal while minimizing baseline drift. Swallow signal event detection was not possible due to a lack of available data resulting from problems with the consistency of the obtained signal. A robust method was developed for the batch processing of heart rate variability analysis. Finally a method of coordination analysis was developed based on the event detection algorithm outputs. Coordination was measured by determining the percentage of feeding time that consisted of overlapping suck and breath activity.


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Is Part Of

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Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2012

Available for download on Wednesday, May 11, 2022