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Biomedical Engineering / Biomedizinische Technik

Joint Journal of the German Society for Biomedical Engineering in VDE and the Austrian and Swiss Societies for Biomedical Engineering and the German Society of Biomaterials

Editor-in-Chief: Dössel, Olaf

Editorial Board: Augat, Peter / Habibović, Pamela / Haueisen, Jens / Jahnen-Dechent, Wilhelm / Jockenhoevel, Stefan / Knaup-Gregori, Petra / Lenarz, Thomas / Leonhardt, Steffen / Plank, Gernot / Radermacher, Klaus M. / Schkommodau, Erik / Stieglitz, Thomas / Boenick, Ulrich / Jaramaz, Branislav / Kraft, Marc / Lenthe, Harry / Lo, Benny / Mainardi, Luca / Micera, Silvestro / Penzel, Thomas / Robitzki, Andrea A. / Schaeffter, Tobias / Snedeker, Jess G. / Sörnmo, Leif / Sugano, Nobuhiko / Werner, Jürgen /

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Volume 56, Issue 2


Volume 57 (2012)

Medical device alarms

Matthias Borowski
  • Technische Universität Dortmund, Dortmund, Germany
  • Matthias Borowski and Matthias Görges contributed equally to this manuscript.
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Matthias Görges
  • University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA
  • Matthias Borowski and Matthias Görges contributed equally to this manuscript.
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Roland Fried / Olaf Such / Christian Wrede / Michael Imhoff
Published Online: 2011-03-03 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/bmt.2011.005


The high number of false positive alarms has long been known to be a serious problem in critical care medicine – yet it remains unresolved. At the same time, threats to patient safety due to missing or suppressed alarms are being reported. The purpose of this paper is to present results from a workshop titled “Too many alarms? Too few alarms?” organized by the Section Patient Monitoring and the Workgroup Alarms of the German Association of Biomedical Engineering of the Association for Electrical, Electronic and Information Technologies. The current situation regarding alarms and their problems in intensive care, such as lack of clinical relevance, alarm fatigue, workload increases due to clinically irrelevant alarms, usability problems in alarm systems, problems with manuals and training, and missing alarms due to operator error are outlined, followed by a discussion of solutions and strategies to improve the current situation. Finally, the need for more research and development, focusing on signal quality considerations, networking of medical devices at the bedside, diagnostic alarms and predictive warnings, usability of alarm systems, education of healthcare providers, creation of annotated clinical databases for testing, standardization efforts, and patient monitoring in the regular ward, are called for.

Keywords: alarm systems; equipment design; intensive care unit; noise prevention and control; physiologic monitoring; safety management

About the article

Corresponding author: Prof. Dr. med. Michael Imhoff, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Biomedizinische Technik im VDE, Fachausschuss Methodik der Patientenüberwachung, Abteilung für Medizinische Informatik, Biometrie und Epidemiologie, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universitätsstraße 150, 44801 Bochum, Germany Phone: +49-231-9730220

Received: 2010-11-01

Accepted: 2011-02-16

Published Online: 2011-03-03

Published Online: 2011-03-03

Published in Print: 2011-04-01

Citation Information: Biomedizinische Technik/Biomedical Engineering, Volume 56, Issue 2, Pages 73–83, ISSN (Online) 1862-278X, ISSN (Print) 0013-5585, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/bmt.2011.005.

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