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Smart medical technology: Detecting heart failure with a cell phone

Seismocardiography which measures cardiac vibrations transmitted to the chest wall emerged as a promising technology.

AI performed well in conducting preliminary readings of heart ultrasounds
AI performed well in conducting preliminary readings of heart ultrasounds - Copyright AFP Fabrice COFFRINI
AI performed well in conducting preliminary readings of heart ultrasounds - Copyright AFP Fabrice COFFRINI

Researchers from the University of Turku, working with the medical device company CardioSignal, have succeeded in using a smartphone to analyse heart movement and detect heart failure. The research involved five organisations from Finland and the U.S.

Heart failure affects tens of millions of people worldwide, capturing several conditions where the heart is unable to perform its normal function of pumping blood to the body. Detecting heart failure early is important as effective treatment can help to alleviate its symptoms.

Yet this is not straightforward and one concern with the identification of heart failure is where it is challenging to diagnose. This rises since its symptoms, such as shortness of breath, abnormal fatigue on exertion, and swelling, can relate to other conditions.

A new way of making a better assessment is with gyrocardiography. This is a non-invasive technique for measuring cardiac vibrations on the chest. The researchers have succeeded in reducing the scales of the technology downwards so that it can operate using a smartphone.

In this case, the smartphone’s built-in motion sensors can detect and record these vibrations, including those that doctors cannot hear with a stethoscope.

To test out the viability of the solution, 1,000 people took part in a study, of whom around 200 were patients suffering from heart failure. The study compared the data provided by the motion sensors in the heart failure patients and patients without heart disease.

Specifically, seismocardiography which measures cardiac vibrations transmitted to the chest wall emerged as a promising technology.

The scientists identified that heart failure is associated with typical changes in the motion sensor data collected by a smartphone. From this, the researchers were able to identify the majority of patients with heart failure.

It was found that the analysis of the movements detected by the gyroscope and accelerometer was very accurate. This provides the basis for a new model to be used by healthcare professionals in the near-future.

The research appears in the Journal of American Cardiology, titled “Smartphone-Based Recognition of Heart Failure by Means of Microelectromechanical Sensors.”

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Written By

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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