An exciting development has emerged out of Europe recently where scientists have developed a handheld scanner that has the ability to read your heart’s vital signs, allowing GP’s to potentially diagnose even preclinical patients for the early onset of cardiovascular disease.
Although the device appears to replicate a supermarket barcode reader used to scan items at a checkout, the technology is in fact far superior and purportedly set to curb skyrocketing numbers of cardiovascular deaths worldwide.
According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the world today. In 2015 over 17.3 million people, roughly 30% of all global deaths, died as a result of cardiovascular conditions, such as coronary heart disease, heart attacks or strokes.
CVDs can currently be identified using a number of medical tools, including cardiac biomarkers, cardiac catheterization, chest x-ray, electrocardiogram (ECG), Holter monitoring, and cardiac MRI.
However, such machines and complex testing requires a huge budget - often making routine routine early forecasting of the disease extremely difficult.
This new diagnostic tool developed by the EU's Horizon 2020 collaboration 'CARDIS', (or 'CARdiovascular disease Detection with Integrated Silicon Photonics'), can read your heart's vital signs with one click of a button, similar to the way a handheld supermarket scanner can scan barcodes at the checkout.
Heart Vibration Mapping
The CARDIS employs a technique using photonics technology called Laser Doppler Vibrometry, allowing the device to pick up vital information about the status of the heart using light in a fast and inexpensive way.
It works by harnessing the commonly known scientific phenomenon of the 'Doppler Effect'. Using the 'Doppler shift' of the reflected light, the scanner builds up a 'vibration map' of the chest and heart area, which can highlight the tell tale signs of CVD, such as plaque build-up, arterial stiffness, arterial stenosis or heart dyssyncrony.
Project coordinator Dr.Mirko de Melis explains: "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."
The non-invasiveness of the device and the degree of accuracy it provides in a fraction of the time is what sets the CARDIS apart from similar products that are already on the market.
"At present, millions considered to be low or moderate risk are walking around undiagnosed.
"It is our long term goal to place such a device in the hands of the GP, the first point of contact for the mass population, as part of a routine health examination."
"The screening of potential sufferers, who are in their early 40s, would delay the onset of the condition by 5-10 years. Assuming a sufferer would comply with the health advice given and adopted a change in lifestyle, this device allows the medical professional to halt or even reverse CVD," De Melis said.
To read more about this fascinating device, click here.