News on Health & Science

Your heart will be watched

Indian scientists have developed a device that takes an ECG of the user when needed and transmits the information to the doctor, all on its own.
Here’s good news for the weak hearted. A tiny device — which can either be dangled from the neck or strapped to the abdomen — may monitor the health of your heart and despatch the information using your mobile phone to your cardiologist in real time, without you even getting to know about it.

Two independent research groups in India are currently working on such cardiac monitoring devices which, the scientists claim, may usher in a revolution in remote cardiac diagnosis.

These gadgets are capable of recording the heart’s signature — in the form of an electro cardio gram (ECG) — and transmitting it to a neighbourhood doctor’s mobile phone or desktop at a clinic for routine viewing. Better still, soon they may even be able to locate the patient in case of an emergency.

While the toffee-sized silicon locket — developed by a team at the microelectronics laboratory of the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai — is currently undergoing evaluation, a similar effort by Thulasi Bai, a doctoral fellow at Sathyabama University in Tamil Nadu, has progressed beyond the conceptual stage. “We have shown that when there is an abnormal heartbeat, the patient’s phone can automatically send the ECG to the doctor’s phone as an SMS,” Bai told KnowHow.

The IIT research, which commenced a few years ago, however, is at a very advanced stage. Developed as part of a project funded by software company Tata Consultancy Services, the silicon locket — which is no heavier than a mobile battery — is being evaluated for efficiency at the Electronic Regional Test Laboratory at Thiruvananthapuram. The locket, which has a 2-gigabyte memory, can either store the ECG data or send it over a telephone line or the Internet to the hospital in real time.

Another significant feature of the gadget is that it does not raise false alarms — a major issue in remote cardiac monitoring. Any sort of physical exertion like running, walking or climbing stairs would mean blood being pumped. Such accelerated heartbeats may give out a misleading warning, says Sudip Nag, an IIT researcher who along with his guide, Dinesh Sharma, designed the tool. To avoid this, the IIT scientists have designed very tiny sensors that will detect such physical activities. Placing them along with the ECG electrodes — which are glued to body parts such as the chest, hands and legs — would help the microcomputer in the locket to make allowance for such physical exertion and thereby be prudent in pressing the panic button, says Nag.

The wearable cardiac telemedicine system being designed by Bai, however, lacks this capability at present, as it sends out an alarm whenever the heart rate either drops to below 60 beats per minute (bradycardia) or shoots to above 100 beats per minute (tachycardia).

Source: Tjhe Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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