A helping hand

A helping hand

Ontario university students invent a life-saving CPR device
July 23, 2008

Scientific studies show that even in hospitals, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) compressions are not delivered fast enough or deep enough. If healthcare professionals can’t meet the standard in formal medical settings, how will the rest of us fare when suddenly faced with a heart attack victim?

This is what spurred Corey Centen and Nilesh Patel to develop the idea of a CPR glove during their final year of engineering at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, in 2006. The life-saving practice of CPR may get a huge hand up when the medical marketplace welcomes their CPR device at the end of the year.

Though thousands are aware of CPR and have been trained to deliver it, research has shown that acting on the training can be daunting. Corey and Nilesh were intrigued by one particular study that showed almost 60 percent of the time, compressions don't reach the required 100 per minute, and they aren’t applied the necessary four-to-five centimetres deep, nearly 40 percent of the time.

“People realize you have to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and press on the chest,” says Nilesh, 22. “But it’s hard. Exactly how much mouth-to-mouth do you give? And how much do you press on the chest?”

To help people accurately and consistently perform CPR, the students developed a unique glove that helps direct the wearer. They started with an off-the-shelf ski glove, replacing its bulky insulation with their patented electronic detectors to measure the hand’s movements. On the back of the glove is a small screen—cannibalized from a cell phone—to guide the user through basic protocols, including reminders to check a patient’s breathing and call 911. More critically, the readout reports immediately on whether CPR is being performed at the right pace and depth, with messages to speed up or press harder accordingly.


Last year, with the addition of classmate Sarah Smith, the three newly minted engineers launched Atreo Medical Inc. to market the glove. They have gone from carving up ski mitts in a dorm room to collaborating with a medical device manufacturer and carrying out market research for the latest version of the CPR glove, which is more comfortable to wear and operate.

For Corey, Atreo’s CEO, what might have been a straightforward classroom exercise has evolved into a promising enterprise and the basis of a career. It might not have been what he had in mind, especially since he was subsequently accepted into a graduate program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Yet, he finds the commercial dimensions of his work no less stimulating than the technology itself.

“I like bridging the technical to the business side; seeing the market and then making the technical solution based on that market,” says Corey, 23. “We didn’t want to constantly look at this from an engineer’s perspective because engineers want to keep adding features even if the market’s not demanding them.”

Nilesh, the company’s Chief Technology Officer, oversees the development of the hardware and software for the glove, ensuring that its capabilities will meet user demands. The full extent of those demands should be revealed by the end of this year, when the first batch of gloves is expected to be ready for sale. These young entrepreneurs foresee the glove becoming commonplace in homes, workplaces, and public venues, on hand—literally—to help anyone carry out CPR properly.

Learn more about CPR

  • Between 35,000 and 45,000 people die of cardiac arrest in Canada every year.
  • Rates of survival from cardiac arrest are almost four times greater with CPR.
  • In some parts of Canada, the number of bystanders who know how to perform CPR rates is very low.
  • Fewer than five percent of those who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive, largely because CPR is not performed at all or is not started soon enough.