London | Scientists have developed a new smartphone app and a thumb-size device which can detect irregular heartbeat and may help to prevent strokes at an early stage.
The mobile device, developed at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, has been tested with excellent results for around two years in real-life conditions in cooperation with Turku University Central Hospital.
An irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia tends to remain undiagnosed, if no symptoms are detected during monitoring of heart activity.
“With the mobile device, users can register their ECG signal whenever arrhythmia or other heart symptoms occur. The device is also suitable for pre- and post-surgery monitoring of heart patients at home,” said Timo Varpula, Principal Scientist at VTT.
“There is no need for patients to visit a hospital, because the data is sent automatically from a mobile phone to medical staff via a cloud service,” said Varpula.
The system Beat2Phone accurately measures the user’s heart rate and heart rate variability in order to detect not only an irregular heartbeat, but also overburdening and prolonged stress. A high resting heart rate and low heart rate variability are indicators of stress.
The app and device measure ECG signals at a very high sampling rate, identify individual heart beats and count the interval between consecutive beats.
The device also includes position and activity sensors and is comfortable to wear, researchers said.
The mobile device has been tested by heart patients at Turku University Central Hospital, as well as by top athletes with heart conditions, who have been highly satisfied with it.
Top athletes and professional sportspersons should monitor their heart activity regularly, because changes in ECG may be an indicator of myocarditis or other serious conditions.
The device has so far been tested by around 30 users, some of whom have also worn the device at night.
The test users are people who have reported heart symptoms, but who have not experienced symptoms during earlier monitoring.
In the tests, the device helped to detect atrial fibrillation, arrhythmia and a cardiac conduction disorder.
The patients were admitted for further tests once they had shown their Beat2Phone electrocardiograms to a physician.
Persons suffering from harmless irregular heartbeat have also reported improved quality of life due to the measuring device alleviating their uncertainty about their condition.
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