Smartphone motion sensors used to detect heart failure

Tuesday, 16 April, 2024

Smartphone motion sensors used to detect heart failure

A multicentre study of over 1000 participants has achieved highly accurate results using smartphones as a measuring device in the detection of heart failure, a rapidly growing health burden impacting ~60 million patients worldwide. The results of the study have been published in JACC: Heart Failure.

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart is unable to perform its normal function of pumping blood to the body. It is challenging to diagnose because its symptoms (such as shortness of breath, abnormal fatigue on exertion and swelling) can be caused by a number of conditions, and there is no simple test available to detect it — diagnosis relies on an examination by a doctor, blood tests and sophisticated imaging, such as an ultrasound scan of the heart. Over 30% of patients receive their diagnosis only after being hospitalised, despite having symptoms often for months or years.

There is, however, a non-invasive technique called gyrocardiography for measuring cardiac vibrations on the chest, and a smartphone’s built-in motion sensors can detect and record these vibrations — including those that doctors cannot hear with a stethoscope. The method has been developed over the last 10 years by researchers at the University of Turku and health technology company CardioSignal.

The researchers’ latest study on using smartphone motion sensors to detect heart failure was carried out at the Turku and Helsinki University Hospitals in Finland and Stanford University Hospital in the US. Approximately 1000 people took part in the study, of whom around 200 were patients suffering from heart failure. The study compared the data provided by the motion sensors in the heart failure patients and patients without heart disease.

“The results we obtained with this new method are promising and may in the future make it easier to detect heart failure,” said Professor Antti Saraste, from the University of Turku.

The researchers found that heart failure is associated with typical changes in the motion sensor data collected by a smartphone, as measured by placing the phone on the patient’s chest for two minutes to obtain cardiac motion signals. On the basis of this data, the researchers were able to identify the majority of patients with heart failure.

With an 89% diagnostic accuracy, AUC of 0.95, sensitivity of 85% and specificity of 90%, the analysis of the movements detected by the phone’s gyroscope and accelerometer was deemed so accurate that in the future it could provide healthcare professionals with a quick and easy way to detect heart failure. Timely diagnosis and access to treatment can help to alleviate symptoms and reduce healthcare costs, which are driven up by emergency room visits and hospital stays.

“Primary care is usually the first to assess a patient with underlying heart failure, but the detection tools available are very limited to diagnose this complex disease,” said CardioSignal co-founder and CEO Juuso Blomster. “Our technology can address this urgent clinical unmet need and offer a highly scalable detection method for doctors and nurses in primary care and in a remote patient monitoring set-up, essentially addressing the current cardiology bottleneck in hospitals.”

Image credit: Haddad F, et al. J Am Coll Cardiol HF. 2024;10.1016/j.jchf.2024.01.022

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