Digital stethoscope to detect early signs of heart valve disease

Wednesday, 30 August, 2023

Digital stethoscope to detect early signs of heart valve disease

An artificial intelligence stethoscope that could detect early signs of heart valve disease (HVD) could be available to physicians by the end of the decade, according to research funded through the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) Foundation.

HVD occurs when one or more of a patient’s heart valves are damaged and cannot function properly, making it difficult for the body to pump blood, potentially leading to heart failure, stroke and blood clots.

Through the use of AI algorithms, the digital stethoscope would help patients, doctors and clinicians assess and treat the issue before major heart complications, as research found that the condition is frequently undiagnosed in patients until such complications occur.

Lead researcher, cardiologist and RACP Fellowship award recipient Dr Abdul Ihdayhid at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and Curtin University, spoke of the need to improve the diagnosis rate of HVD.

“The journey for diagnosing valve heart disease starts with the humble stethoscope. The stethoscope has been an integral part of what we do in clinical medicine for the last 200 years. However, we know at present the results using a stethoscope can vary. We are trying to take away the variability and make the process easier to diagnose HVD via the use of artificial intelligence.

“We plan to develop a digital stethoscope that uses AI technology to easily detect heart abnormalities in patients. This technology could be used in someone’s home. A person can take their digital stethoscope and listen to their own heart and the AI algorithm will be able to tell them almost immediately if there is an abnormality. Or perhaps someone’s heart can be assessed during a routine trip to the pharmacist. If the stethoscope detects a murmur, it can immediately alert the patient and their GP about the need for the patient to go to a specialist for thorough check-up.”

The technology aims to help detect the disease in its nascent stages, with the hope, Ihdayhid said, to provide desirable outcomes for patients and assist with easing the existing strain on the healthcare system.

“HVD disease is underdiagnosed and undertreated. Patients often only recognise something is wrong when they present to an ER with heart failure, or they’ve had a heart attack or are just generally very, very unwell. We know that for a patient’s long-term prognosis, it is critical that HVD is detected early,” Ihdayhid said.

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