Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Miracles & Wonders: Watching your heart with a cell phone

Engineers have demonstrated that the camera on your smartphone can noninvasively provide detailed information about your heart's health. 
What used to require a 45-minute scan from an ultrasound machine can now be accomplished by simply holding your phone up to your neck for a minute or two.
The team developed a technique that can infer the left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) of the heart by measuring the amount that the carotid artery displaces the skin of the neck as blood pumps through it. LVEF represents the amount of blood in the heart that is pumped out with each beat. In a normal heart, this LVEF ranges from 50 to 70 percent. When the heart is weaker, less of the total amount of blood in the heart is pumped out with each beat, and the LVEF value is lower. 
LVEF is a key measure of heart health, one upon which physicians base diagnostic and therapeutic decisions.
Doctors simply held iPhones against the volunteers' necks for one to two minutes. Afterwards, the volunteers immediately received an MRI examination, and data from both tests were compared. The measurements made by smartphone had a margin of error of ± 19.1 percent compared with those done in an MRI. By way of comparison, the margin of error for echocardiography is around ± 20.0 percent.
We already have a cell phone device called Kardia that can take a medical-grade EKG in just 30 seconds. Results are delivered to your smartphone. You can know anytime, anywhere if your heart rhythm is normal, or if atrial fibrillation is detected.

And then there's Catherine Wong, who at age 17 visited her local retailer and purchased some off-the-shelf electronics, which she used to build an inexpensive electrocardiogram machine to track heart activity. The enterprising teen fashioned the device to wirelessly send the data collected to a Java-enabled cell phone app and then on to a diagnosing physician — all in real time.

Devices like these have great potential in the developing world and in any situation where the big machines of medicine are unavailable. One thinks of disaster situations, where first responders encounter all sorts of medical emergencies.

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