Detecting atrial fibrillation through a phone

Researchers in Hong Kong have developed a tool which could hold another key to promoting Longevity.

Researchers in Hong Kong have developed a tool that could hold another key to promoting Longevity. This simple gadget uses machine vision to capture data about blood flow which is undetectable to the human eye.

Longevity.Technology: This low-cost technology circumnavigates the need for 1:1 screening and may prove the answer for a scalable solution to detecting heart conditions – potentially saving lives as well as clinicians’ time. 

Atrial fibrillation is the most common form of cardiac arrhythmia and a leading cause of strokes. Affecting 8.8 million people worldwide [1], it can rapidly lead to cell death or senescence as it interrupts supplies of essential oxygen and nutrients.

Heart conditions are traditionally detected by measuring electrical activity by ECG. However, this data can only be collected in a clinical setting and only provides a snapshot of how your heart is functioning at that moment in time – this means many heart conditions go undetected.

This new technology looks set to change all that; using a smartphone’s existing camera, a simple technique measures changes in blood volume passing through blood vessels in the skin by measuring facial photoplethysmographic signals (FPPG). Any abnormalities in blood volume due to the heart pumping mechanism can be detected and the data is then analysed via machine learning and compared with expected ECG values.

In a recent trial, FPPG data proved to be over 90% in agreement with ECG data in all areas of testing [2]. Although experts are in favour of the technology’s ability to improve detection rates of atrial fibrillation, further studies will be necessary to evaluate its performance in real world settings. Health data security will also be of prime importance when rolling out this technology [3].

With the proliferation of surveillance cameras and improvements in machine vision technology the implications for this type of technology could have both positive and negative implications.

[1] https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1161/JAHA.118.008585
[2] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamacardiology/article-abstract/2756246
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4479128/

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