Need an Ultrasound? There's an app for that!

by Gabrielle Taylor September 14, 2017

Need an Ultrasound? There's an app for that!

Want to know how healthy your heart is? Now there's an app for that.

A recent clinical trial has demonstrated that the camera on your smartphone can noninvasively provide detailed information about your heart’s health.

Engineers at Caltech, Huntington Medical Research Institute, and USC have uncovered a way to achieve, what used to to require a 45-minute scan from an ultrasound machine, by simply holding your phone up to your neck for a minute or two.

Details on how the prototype works relies on a basic understanding of the heart - but most simply, the technique infers what is referred to as the left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) of the heart by measuring the amount that an artery in your neck displaces the skin of the neck as blood pumps through it.

LVEF is a key measure of heart health, one upon which physicians base diagnostic and therapeutic decisions.

"In a surprisingly short period of time, we were able to move from invention to the collection of validating clinical data," says Caltech's Mory Gharib (PhD '83), senior author of a paper on the study that was published in the July issue of the Journal of Critical Care Medicine. Gharib is the Hans W. Liepmann Professor of Aeronautics and Bioinspired Engineering.

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 rarely used in a clinical capacity due to the high cost associated with such technology as well as limited availability. However, even the preferred technology for LVEF testing, echocardiography, requires a trained professional and an ultrasound machine and can take up to 45 minutes of a patient’s time.

"What is exciting about this study is that it shows our technique is as accurate as echocardiography at estimating LVEF when both are compared to the gold standard of cardiac MRI. This has the potential to revolutionize how doctors and patients can screen for and monitor heart disease both in the U.S. and the developing world," Gharib says.

To find out more about how the app works and the future prospects of such technology, click here.

Gabrielle Taylor
Gabrielle Taylor

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