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Heart Health

A New Tool to Detect Atrial Fibrillation

Thanks to a new technology, a web camera can distinguish whether someone is suffering atrial fibrillation, a potentially serious heart condition.

A project by researchers from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, showed that subtle changes in skin color can be used to detect the kind of uneven blood flow caused by atrial fibrillation. The technology was developed in a partnership between the university and Xerox.

The findings were published in the journal Heart Rhythm.

“This technology holds the potential to identify and diagnose cardiac disease using contactless video monitoring,” Jean-Philippe Couderc, Ph.D., with the university’s Heart Research Follow-up Program. “This is a very simple concept, but one that could enable more people with atrial fibrillation to get the care the care they need.”

Atrial fibrillation, an irregular or rapid heart rate, usually leads to the upper and lower chambers of the heart to beat “out of sync.” Although it is easily diagnosed, a university press release said, it can also go undetected because the symptoms of fatigue and weakness are too vague to alert patients and physicians.

If it is undetected, patients are at higher risk of blood clots and stroke.

With the new technology, a patient’s face is scanned for 15 seconds and detects skin color changes that are invisible to the naked eyes.

The technology described in the study employs a software algorithm developed by Xerox that scans the face and can detect changes in skin color that are imperceptible to the naked eye. All this requires is that the subject remain still for 15 seconds.

The eleven participants in the study were also hooked up to electrocardiogram (ECG) so the scans of the facial results could be compared with the results of the ECG.Researchers found that the video monitoring technique was in many cases more accurate than an ECG. The video has an error rate of 20 percent, while the ECG has an error rate of 17 to 29 percent.

Researchers are now looking at the possibility of a larger study.

“This study was intended to be a proof of concept and, as is the case with many new technologies, we believe that we can significantly improve its accuracy and the usability,” said Couderc.

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