WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Being able to detect fatal heart conditions before they kill you is a good thing… enough said.
The most common type of Arrhythmia, a form of atrial fibrillation, is an irregular beating of the heart that can lead to stroke, blood clots, or heart failure if left unchecked, and it’s often deadly. Furthermore, unless you’re using an electrocardiogram it can be very difficult to detect but soon all that could change and all you’ll need to detect one of the world’s deadliest heart conditions is a smartphone app.
Back in 2011 scientists from the University of Turku in Finland collaborated with colleagues at Turku University Hospital to see if small accelerometers could be used to detect the tell tale tiny chest movements associated with Arrhythmia and it turned out that they could. In turn this then got them wondering if they could use the tiny accelerometers in a standard smartphone to detect the condition.
Now, six years on from that early research, the team, which is led by researcher Tero Koivisto, have created an app that requires the smartphone to simply be placed upon the patient’s chest, where it detects and analyses the micromovements caused by their heartbeat in order to detect the condition.
In a blind study conducted on 300 patients from the hospital, half of whom had Arrhythmia, the app was 96 percent accurate at detecting the condition, and even more impressively it was able to do it even though many of the patients also had other pre-existing heart conditions.
The app is now being developed further and it’s hoped it will soon be commercialised by a spinoff company called Precordior and, just like some of the other breakthroughs recently that are also helping democratise access to healthcare, such as ultrasound on a smartphone, and being able to use your voice to detect and diagnose disease, or your smartphone’s camera to diagnose dangerous cancers, the new technology will give patients around the world yet another powerful tool that they can use to check and monitor their own health with.
A paper on the research was recently published in the Circulation Journal.
Meanwhile elsewhere scientists from the Chinese University of Hong Kong have also developed an atrial fibrillation detection app, but rather than detecting micromovements it uses the smartphone’s camera to analyse subtle change in the patients facial skin colour that are often another indicator of a fluctuating heart rate. Let the democratisation of healthcare continue!