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Smartphone App Detects Heart Attack
by Ovi Magazine Guest
2016-11-12 11:25:39
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A smartphone application developed by the researchers of the University of Turku can detect myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack. No extra equipment is required for the app as it utilizes only the phone's built-in motion sensors, especially the gyroscope. Thus, the used technology is largely similar to the app for detection of atrial fibrillation, which the research group reported in August. The myocardial infarction detection app should be available for test use during 2017.

heart01_400_01Myocardial infarction requires urgent attention

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number one cause of death killing over 17.5 million people in 2012. One of the most well-known serious seizures belonging to this disease category is an acute myocardial infarction. Because a heart attack can lead to death very rapidly, it is important to detect it as soon as the first symptoms appear, in order to allow clinical intervention as soon as possible.

– One might presume that chest pain typically related to a heart attack would effectively guide people to call an ambulance and get help without hesitation. However, this is not always the case because for example heart burn may induce similar chest pain. Furthermore, sometimes people mistakenly assume that the chest pain is transient, says Project manager Tero Koivisto from the Technology Research Center (TRC) at the University of Turku.

– Myocardial infarction is caused by the blockage of coronary artery, which supplies oxygen-rich blood to the heart itself. The part of the heart muscle suffering from short of oxygen can be permanently damaged. Therefore, urgent clinical intervention is very important. The best cure is quick coronary angioplasty, says Professor of Cardiology Juhani Airaksinen from the Heart Centre of Turku University Hospital.

Initial results are promising

In this research it was tested how well the heart attack can be detected using only the data collected from built-in motion sensors of the smartphone. A study group consisted of 17 infarction patients (fully blocked coronary artery), which were cured at the Heart Centre of Turku University Hospital. Measurements were performed by placing the smartphone on the patient’s chest (in supine position) for a few minutes and measuring rotational micro motions of the chest. From each patient, one recording was taken during the heart attack and another one after the coronary angioplasty operation. In this study, the data collected before surgical operation was compared to the data collected after the operation.

– For example, the gyroscope of the smartphone is so sensitive that it is able to measure rotational micro motions of the chest caused by the motion of the heart, when the phone is placed on the patient’s chest. When the blood flow to the heart muscle is disturbed, these micro motions of the chest are affected and this can be sensed by the phone. All iPhones and many Android-phones feature a gyroscope. Data processing is carried out automatically, and thus there is no need for interpretation by personnel specifically trained for this purpose. Data is preprocessed, for example data corrupted by excessive motion artifacts is removed, before the actual analysis based on machine learning is performed. The machine learning algorithm developed by us is implemented in the app and can immediately tell if the patient has heart attack, Koivisto describes the method.

In this study, the algorithm detected myocardial infarction with the accuracy of over 70 %, even in the worst case. The researchers believe that, if the app has person’s baseline recording (before the heart attack) available, it should be possible to achieve detection accuracy of over 90 %.

Intended to support faster seeking of medical care

– When someone feels acute chest pain, the phone should be placed on his/her chest in order to get the recording started. The data collection phase takes about two minutes. After the recording phase, the app analyses the data and immediately gives the result. The app is intended to support faster seeking of medical care. In any case, we don’t try to rule out heart attacks, instead our aim is to convince the patient when there is real emergency situation, Koivisto describes the intended use of the app.

– In my opinion, this is something worth trying, because this kind of solution could lower the threshold to quickly seek medical care in the case of acute myocardial infarction. Sometimes, the assessment of symptoms referring to the heart attack is very difficult. In these cases, possible additional confirmation given by the app would be very necessary, Airaksinen summarizes.

The research results are made in a project type ”New knowledge and business from research ideas” funded by the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, TEKES.

The research results were published at the third European Congress on eCardiology & eHealth in Berlin in 26-28 October: Tero Koivisto, Olli Lahdenoja, Tero Hurnanen, Mojtaba Jafari Tadi, Eero Lehtonen, Tuija Vasankari, Antti Saraste, Tuomas Kiviniemi, Juhani Airaksinen, Mikko Pänkäälä, “Detecting indications of acute myocardial infarction using smartphone only solution”, European Congress on e-Cardiology & e-Health, 2016.

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