The recent trends of technological innovation and widescale digitization as potential solutions to challenges in health care, sports, and emergency service operations have led to the conception of smart textile technology. In health care, these smart textile systems present the potential to aid preventative medicine and early diagnosis through continuous, noninvasive tracking of physical and mental health while promoting proactive involvement of patients in their medical management. In areas such as sports and emergency response, the potential to provide comprehensive and simultaneous physiological insights across multiple body systems is promising. However, it is currently unclear what type of evidence exists surrounding the use of smart textiles for the monitoring of physiological outcome measures across different settings.
This scoping review aimed to systematically survey the existing body of scientific literature surrounding smart textiles in their most prevalent form, the smart shirt, for monitoring physiological outcome measures.
A total of 5 electronic bibliographic databases were systematically searched (Ovid Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System Online, Excerpta Medica database, Scopus, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, and SPORTDiscus). Publications from the inception of the database to June 24, 2019, were reviewed. Nonindexed literature relevant to this review was also systematically searched. The results were then collated, summarized, and reported.
Following the removal of duplicates, 7871 citations were identified. On the basis of title and abstract screening, 7632 citations were excluded, whereas 239 were retrieved and assessed for eligibility. Of these, 101 citations were included in the final analysis. Included studies were categorized into four themes: (1) prototype design, (2) validation, (3) observational, and (4) reviews. Among the 101 analyzed studies, prototype design was the most prevalent theme (50/101, 49.5%), followed by validation (29/101, 28.7%), observational studies (21/101, 20.8%), and reviews (1/101, 0.1%). Presented prototype designs ranged from those capable of monitoring one physiological metric to those capable of monitoring several simultaneously. In 29 validation studies, 16 distinct smart shirts were validated against reference technology under various conditions and work rates, including rest, submaximal exercise, and maximal exercise. The identified observational studies used smart shirts in clinical, healthy, and occupational populations for aims such as early diagnosis and stress detection. One scoping review was identified, investigating the use of smart shirts for electrocardiograph signal monitoring in cardiac patients.
Although smart shirts have been found to be valid and reliable in the monitoring of specific physiological metrics, results were variable for others, demonstrating the need for further systematic validation. Analysis of the results has also demonstrated gaps in knowledge, such as a considerable lag of validation and observational studies in comparison with prototype design and limited investigation using smart shirts in pediatric, elite sports, and emergency service populations.