Handheld scanner to give heart disease diagnosis
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Hand-held scanner to give heart disease diagnosis

Scientists have developed a new hand-held scanner that has the ability to read the heart’s vital signs like a barcode, allowing a GP to diagnose preclinical patients for the early onset of a disease.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the world.

CVDs can be identified using a number of medical tools, including cardiac biomarkers, cardiac catheterisation, chest X-ray, electrocardiogram (ECG), Holter monitoring, and cardiac MRI.

However, because they are complicated or expensive, routine early forecasting of CVD is impossible in large populations at present.

The new diagnostic tool, developed under the Horizon 2020 collaboration CARdiovascular disease Detection with Integrated Silicon Photonics (CARDIS), has the ability to read the heart’s vital signs with one click of a button.

Employing ‘laser doppler vibrometry,’ a technique using photonics technology, the device can detect vital information about the status of the heart using light in a fast and inexpensive way.

It works by harnessing the Doppler Effect, which is used to observe changes in pitch of light or sound from a fixed point.

Using the ‘Doppler shift’ of the reflected light, the scanner builds up a ‘vibration map’ of the chest and heart area, which can highlight signs of CVD such as plaque build-up, arterial stiffness, arterial stenosis or heart dyssynchrony.

Project co-ordinator Dr Mirko de Melis said: “Our device employs the latest photonics technology, allowing a user to make measurements of the vibration characteristics of the heart without even touching it.

“A stiff artery creates a faster pulse pressure from the patient’s beating heart. By measuring the ‘pulse wave velocity,’ we can assess the stiffness of the arteries using light and make informed judgements, long before the onset of cardiovascular disease.”

De Melis added: “Our device would be cheap, easy to use and extremely effective. With the cost of an echocardiographer anything above €100,000, and an arterial tonometer at €5,000-6,000, the CARDIS scanner would be reasonably priced at around €1,500. However it is the potential savings on our health services caused by the early diagnosis and prevention of CVD that will be the most rewarding.”