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Medical device monitors heart health from home

The device has been developed by Eko Devices Inc. and it is called the Eko Duo. The device has recently been granted clearance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Key to the device is the combination of a digital stethoscope with an electrocardiogram. The intention is for the device to be prescribed to patients by their physician and used in their own homes and it takes the form of a handheld unit.

The company previously developed a smart stethoscope called Eko Core, which also gained FDA approval. This device amplifies and digitally records sound for physicians. It also, in terms of allowing for wider accessibility to medical information, allows patients to hear the recorded sounds.

The device also wirelessly transmits heart sounds and electrical activity to a medical professional. This allows the physician to potentially detect impending heart failure; as well as complications from atrial fibrillation. The technology fits well with the growing trend in telemedicine consultations, where patients can telephone or go on-line to discuss complications and health issues with doctors.

With the technology, the stethoscope amplifies sounds 60 times. To avoid the sound from being obtrusive the device has built-in noise reduction, achieved by four digital audio filters. The electrocardiogram aspect is made-up of two stainless steel electrodes. One of these is a 500 Hz sample rate monitor and the second is a 0.01 HZ high-pass filter.

The device is set to be improved through Eko’s work on developing machine-learning algorithms. These will allow the Duo device to become more sophisticated, assessing the needs of the individual patient. It is hoped this will strengthen the automatic alert to patients medical practitioners of a suspected decline in cardiac function. Where cardiologists pick up a lot of information by listening to a patient’s heart the human ear cannot hear everything; the Duo device can provide a greater spectrum of information.

Speaking with the biomedicine site QMed, University of California San Francisco cardiologist John Chorba said: “I’m excited about the device. I see it primarily as a great way to capture the heart sounds and some electrocardiographic findings in a very user-friendly way.” The medic goes onto to discuss a forthcoming study to look at valvular heart disease in relation to the Duo device.

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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