Atrial Fibrillation Detection App Shaping Up; Awaiting FDA Clearance

Atrial Fibrillation Detection App Shaping Up; Awaiting FDA Clearance

Both the iPhone app store and the Android market have their fair share of heart rate monitors, which use either the microphone or in some cases the camera to detect your heart rate, with varying levels of accuracy. A researcher from Worcester Polytechnic Institute wanted to take this idea a little further and has developed a smartphone app that measures not only heart rate, but also heart rhythm, respiration rate and blood oxygen saturation using the phone’s built-in video camera.

The app analyzes video clips recorded while the patient’s fingertip is pressed against the lens of the camera. Just like a standard clinical pulse oximeter, it then captures small changes in light reflected by the pulsing blood in the capillaries, and translates these changes to the actual vital signs by using some of the same algorithms employed in professional devices.

For testing purposes, the researchers used the app on a Motorola Droid phone with a group of volunteers and compared the readings with those from standard clinical monitoring devices. According to these tests, the smart phone monitor was as accurate as the traditional devices. If this app indeed works as well as advertised, this could become a powerful diagnostic tool which is readily available to both doctors and patients anywhere they are.

The next challenge the researchers are working on is accurate detection of atrial fibrillation from the heart rhythm signal. They are working on an app for that, and have started a preliminary clinical study. Details of the current app are described in a paper published online in the journal IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.

UMass Memorial cardiologist Dr. David D. McManus demonstrates a smartphone app used to detect atrial fibrillation. (T&G Staff Photos/PAUL KAPTEYN)

According to the Worcester Telegram, researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and UMass Memorial Medical Center have developed a prototype iPhone application that detects if the user has atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia in the world and puts the patient at high risk for developing a stroke, typically from an embolic event.

The user places their index finger over the iPhone camera while the app is activated, and the lens and light source detect changes in skin color and underlying vasculature. It was tested on 60 atrial fibrillation patients at UMass and the results were compared to the patient’s actual EKG’s – all of which matched.

Dr. David McManus, a cardiologist at UMass and one of the clinicians involved in testing it, feels it could serve as a screening tool for patients who have a family history of a stroke, but who are otherwise without apparent symptoms themselves.

The app was developed by Professor Ki Chon at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. It is expected to launch in 3 to 6 months, and is currently awaiting FDA approval.

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