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I2MTC 2009 - International Instrumentation and Measurement Technology Conference Singapore, 5-7 May 2009

Optical Flowmeter for Blood Extracorporeal Circulators

M. Norgia, A Pesatori
Dipartimento di Elettronica e Informazione Politecnico di Milano Milano, Italy
AbstractThis work describes the design and realization of a new low-cost instrument for real time measurement of blood flow, especially developed for dialysis machine monitoring. The instrument is realized by means of a self-mixing interferometer and a dedicated data elaboration system. Keywords: Optical velocity measurement, Blood flow measurement, Biomedical measurements, Optical data processing, Optical interferometry

L. Rovati
Department of Information Engineering University of Modena and Reggio Emilia Modena, Italy the laser diode and the remote target. The modulation index m and the shape of the function F() both depend [4] on the socalled feedback parameter C

C = s Rext

1 + 2 1 Rout
Llas nlas Rout




The blood flow monitoring is a key measurement for the control of the correct working conditions in hemodialysis and extracorporeal blood circulator systems. Commercial instruments are based on ultrasound sensors [1-2], requiring high-cost crystal actuators, working in the megahertz frequency range. Other kind of sensors are inductive flowmeters, which require special cuvettes, not used in disposable equipments for their cost [2]. Some optical instruments have been proposed for flow measurements [3], but they are difficult to implement at the very low cost required by the application. In this paper we propose an optical instrument based on the self-mixing interferometry [4], realized with low-cost components and managed by a dedicated data processing system. II. MEASUREMENT PRINCIPLE AND SETUP

where Rext is remote target optical power reflectivity, is the LD linewidth enhancement factor, is the mode mismatch coefficient ( 0.2 in most practical situations), Llas is the laser cavity length, nlas is the average laser-cavity refractive index and Rout is the power reflectivity of the output mirror. The amplitude modulation signal can be detected by the monitor photodiode typically placed into the laser package, or by an external photodiode, at any position in front of the laser beam. For practical cases, the modulation index m is around 10-2-10-3, and the signal amplitude is large enough for relatively simple electronic processing [5-6]. For the measurement of a blood flow inside a plastic duct, we implemented an optical setup as described in figure 1.
LENS 1 f = 8 mm LASER DIODE LENS 2 f = 8 mm

Any laser source, when subjected to back-injection of a small fraction of the emitted power, exhibits an amplitude modulation [3-4]. In the case of single-mode lasers, this effect can be used for interferometric measurements, in a very simple optical configuration named self-mixing interferometry [4-5]. The amplitude modulation contribution turns into a variation of the power emitted by the laser, which depends on the phase of the back-reflected optical field, and hence on the remote target distance. In this case the power emitted by the LD subject to optical feedback can be written as: P() = P0[1 + mF()], (1)



8 mm

8 mm

Figure 1. Schematic of the optical instrument

where P0 is the power emitted by the unperturbed laser, m is a modulation index and F() is a periodic function of the interferometric phase = 2ks of period 2, where k = 2/ ( being the emission wavelength), and s is the distance between

For the measurement of a blood flow inside of a polycarbonate tube, we implemented an optical setup as described in Fig. 1. The setup has been studied and experimentally tested in order to maximize the back-injection signal. The first lens collimates the laser beam, while the second lens creates a focus inside the blood flow. The signal from the monitor photodiode is amplified by a transimpedance amplifier with bandwidth 1.25 MHz, and acquired by a digital oscilloscope equipped with FFT module.

978-1-4244-3353-7/09/$25.00 2009 IEEE

The laser beam is directed at an angle with respect to the normal to the liquid flux. When the liquid moves at a speed v, the back-diffused light exhibits a Doppler shift equal to
f Doppler = 2 v sin



The power spectrum F(f) of the acquired signal exhibits a single-pole low-pass shape: (3) 1 + f 2 / f 02 Fig. 3 shows the regression curves F(f) for = 25, at 11 m/s, 31.5 m/s and 45 m/s, calculated considering an additive constant noise floor. As can be noted, the regression curves exhibit a very good agreement with the experimental data.
F( f )
-35 -40 -45 Amplitude [dB] -50 -55 -60 -65 -70 -75


This Doppler shift is read by the self-mixing interferometer and is measured as an amplitude modulation of the laser power, directly by the monitor photodiode. III. MEASURED SIGNALS With the prototype described in figure 1 we conducted several measurements over a polycarbonate tube with diameter 4.3 mm. The scattering liquid employed in the first experiment is a water solutions of Intralipid (Fresenius Kabi SPA, Verona, Italy). This suspension is often used in the biomedical optics community as a scattering medium for phantoms that mimic turbid tissues [7-8]. The goal of the system is the measurement of the mean velocity of the liquid. The peristaltic pump used in the experiment can reach 400 ml/minute, corresponding to about 45 cm/s as average liquid speed. The signal acquired from the monitor photodiode has been elaborated in real time by an FFT transform. The position of the laser beam focus and angle have been adjusted in order to maximize the signal-to-noise ratio and to avoid reflection of the tube wall. The best signal is obtained for a laser focussed in the center of the tube (about 2 mm inside) and angle ranging from 10 to 30. Fig. 2 shows the spectra for different liquid speeds (from 0 to 45 cm/s), acquired at an angle = 25.
-35 -40 -45 -50 -55 -60 stop 11 cm/s 18.5 cm/s 23.5 cm/s 30 cm/s 38.5 cm/s 45 cm/s



600 800 Frequency [kHz]



Figure 3. Measured spectra and regression curves F(f) at 11 m/s, 31.5 m/s and 45 m/s

A first implemented method for the measurement of the average liquid speed consisted in the numeric estimation of the parameter f0 in eq. (3), by means of a regression procedure. In many measurements the calculated parameter depends linearly on the average liquid speed. Fig. 4 shows six measurements of f0 as a function of the liquid velocity.
200 180 160 140 Frequency [kHz]

Amplitude [dBm]

-65 -70 -75

120 100 80 60 40



600 800 Frequency [kHz]



Figure 2. Spectra of the signal for different liquid speeds.

20 0

While the signal amplitude is strictly dependent on the scattering liquid and focusing position, the spectral behaviour exhibits a good repeatability also upon changing these parameters. In the next paragraph the signal processing method will be described.



20 25 30 Velocity [cm/s]





Figure 4. Parameter f0 of the regression curve, as a function of the average liquid speed.

This elaboration algorithm has two principal drawbacks. First, it requires a complex elaboration for the computation of

the regression curve, which is very difficult to implement in a low-cost embedded system. Moreover, this method is too sensitive to small variations in the low-frequency range, where the signal amplitude is maximum: a disturb or a signal fluctuation in this spectral region can induce a strong error in the automatic regression curve estimation. Fig. 5 reports an example of wrong fitting, due to relevant tube vibrations: at low frequencies the signal is dominated by the external tube surface reflection. In this case the regression fits the lowfrequency behavior, but is clearly wrong for the high frequencies. This measurement corresponds to the empty dot in Fig. 4.
-35 -40 -45 Amplitude [dB] -50 -55 -60 -65

particle is weighted by the level of its back-injected optical power. Other than the stochastic distribution of the contributions, that results in a correct value for high particles concentration, we have to take into account the different attenuations undergone from each back-reflection: the backscattering from internal portion of the flow has an higher attenuation. Moreover, the focus position is really important, because it determines the portion of fluid that gives the major contribution to the back-scattered radiation. Experimentally, it can be seen that focus positions near to the tube border induce the maximum signal level, but at lower frequencies; indeed it measures the speed of the particles near to the border, therefore quite slow. The best solution for our setup is the beam focus position at the center of the tube, about 2 mm inside the liquid flux. In this focusing position the signal is maximized for the high-frequencies, and the processing method gives the best results, in term of accuracy and repeatability. The average velocity estimated in this condition is reported in Fig. 6, for the same spectra shown in Fig. 2, with respect to the real velocity set by the peristaltic pump.




Measured Velocity [cm/s]

400 600 800 Frequency [kHz]



40 35 30 25 20 15 10 10

Figure 5. Example of wrong regression line, for 17.5 cm/s.

Due to both excessive sensitivity to vibrations and too complex elaboration, we decided to implement a different data processing method. The measured Doppler spectrum can be considered as a Probability Density Function (PDF) of the velocity distribution, for the particles suspended in the fluid. Lets consider the physical phenomenon: each particle backdiffuses a fraction of the impinging optical power, inducing a Doppler shift proportional to its velocity; moreover the contribution of each particle can be considered as uncorrelated from the other ones (it can be summed up in power). Therefore, the mean value of the particles velocity can be calculated as the center of gravity of the probably density function p(x):
x = p( x) x dx



25 30 35 Real Velocity [cm/s]




Figure 6. Measured velocity, obtained by the elaboration of eq. (5) applied to the data of figure 2.


Hence, the spectral center of gravity is obtained as


The linearity of the first realization of the optical measurement system is about 5 %, corresponding also to the value of repeatability: this value is comparable with the one of commercial ultrasound measurement systems. V. CONCLUSION In this work we proposed a new low-cost optical instrument, for real-time blood-flow measurement. For the correct and robust working of the instrument we studied a dedicated data-handling system, which can be implemented in a low-cost embedded electronics. The first realized prototype has an accuracy of about 5 %, estimated from repeated measurements. Future works can improve the accuracy of the system, by means of a custom realization of a plastic setup (that can be fixed to the tube), and a better estimation of the optical attenuation as a function of the signal frequency. Also an analog implementation of the whole system is under study.

p( f ) f df F ( f ) f = F( f ) p( f ) df
0 0


where F(f) is the power spectrum vector, obtained as the square module of the FFT signal. This elaboration algorithm is simpler with respect to the regression curve calculation, because it requires only two sums on the previously calculated FFT spectrum. The power spectrum, however, does not represent exactly the velocity distribution of the particles, because the contribution of each

ACKNOWLEDGMENT The authors wish to thank DATAMED S.r.l. for the active collaboration and support to the research project. REFERENCES
[1] [2] [3] The Flow and Liquid Level Handbook, Vol. 29. 1995. "Ultrasonic Doppler Flow-meters," Omega Engineering, Inc., Stanford, CT. John Webster, editor-in-chief, The measurement, instrumentation, and sensors handbook, chapter 76, II series, CRC Press LLC, 2000 S. Donati: "Electro-Optical Instrumentation - Sensing and Measuring with Lasers", 2004, Prentice Hall, USA.






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