In a proof-of-concept clinical trial, engineers at Caltech, Huntington Medical Research Institute, and USC have demonstrated that the camera on your smartphone can noninvasively provide detailed information about your heart’s health. What used to require a 45-minute scan from an ultrasound machine can now be accomplished by simply holding your phone up to your neck for a minute or two.
To test the app, clinical trials were conducted with 72 volunteers between the ages of 20 and 92 at an outpatient magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) facility. MRI is the gold standard in measuring LVEF but is seldom used clinically due to its high cost and limited availability. LVEF is most commonly measured using an ultrasound machine during a procedure known as echocardiography. Echocardiography, however, requires a trained technician, an expensive ultrasound machine, and up to 45 minutes of a patient’s time.
To measure LVEF using the technique developed at Caltech, doctors simply held iPhones against the volunteers’ necks for one to two minutes. Afterwards, the volunteers immediately received an MRI examination, and data from both tests were compared. The measurements made by smartphone had a margin of error of ±19.1 percent compared with those done in an MRI. By way of comparison, the margin of error for echocardiography is around ±20.0 percent. (That means, for example, if the app generated an LVEF reading of 40, it would have a margin of error of 40 x 19 percent, which equals about plus or minus 7.6 points.)
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