Heart surgery is scary enough when patients anticipate what could happen during the procedure. After hospital discharge, however, heart surgery patients can find the need to self-monitor even more worrisome. The concern is not unfounded, as a 2016 study in Progressive Cardiovascular Disease found that 23% of heart failure patients are readmitted to the hospital every year. Earlier this year we wrote about a study that showed positive results using Insight Product Development’s PhysIQ artificial intelligence predictive algorithm to monitor discharged cardiac surgery patients.

Industrial engineering and biomedical engineering researchers at Purdue University created a “smart sticker” that can monitor physical activity and alert post-surgery patients of risks in real-time. The biocompatible and breathable stickers are made of cellulose and patterned with serpentine shapes. As stretchable as human skin, the stickers are imperceptible to those wearing them, according to the researchers. The stickers are coated with molecules that repel water, oil, dust, and bacteria to prevent degradation when wet or covered with sweat. The team recently published its research in ACS Advanced Materials and Interfaces.

Future developments with Purdue’s smart stickers could include implantable sensors attached to internal organs and use as performance trackers by athletes and fitness practitioners. According to the research team, the stickers cost only about a nickel each to produce using the same technology used to print books at high speed. It’s not inconceivable that in the future, consumers with 3D printers may be able to create smart stickers at home for a variety of self-monitoring applications.