NAMSR News: Technology can identify atrial fibrillation
With new advances, a web camera and software algorithms can now reveal whether or not an individual is experiencing atrial fibrillation, a treatable but potentially dangerous heart condition.
A pilot project, the results of which were published online in the journal Heart Rhythm, demonstrates that subtle changes in skin color can be used to detect the uneven blood flow caused by atrial fibrillation. The technology was developed in a partnership between the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and Xerox.
"This technology holds the potential to identify and diagnosis cardiac disease using contactless video monitoring,"
Atrial fibrillation is an irregular or sometimes rapid heart rate that commonly causes poor blood flow to the body. This occurs when erratic cardiac electrical activity causes the upper and lower chambers of the heart to beat out of sync. More than three million Americans suffer from the disease.
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.
Sensors in digital cameras are designed to record three colors: red, green, and blue. Hemoglobin - a component of blood - "absorbs" more of the green spectrum of light and this subtle change can be detected by the camera's sensor. In turns out that the face is the ideal place to detect this phenomenon, because the skin is thinner than other parts of the body and blood vessels are closer to the surface.
The study participants were simultaneously hooked up to an electrocardiogram (ECG) so results from the facial scan could be compared to the actual electrical activity of the heart.
The researchers found that the color changes detected by video monitoring corresponded with an individual's heart rate as detected on an ECG. Essentially, the irregular electrical activity of the heart found in people with atrial fibrillation could be identified by "observing" the pulses of blood flowing through the veins on the face as it absorbed or reflected green light with each heartbeat.
While the pilot study was only conducted on 11 people and intended to demonstrate that the technology was feasible, the researchers are now in the process of evaluating the technology on a larger study population, including those without atrial fibrillation.
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