Chinese researchers use smartphone camera to diagnose heart attacks

Joint Chinese University of Hong Kong-New Territories East Cluster Clinical Research Ethics Committee researchers developed technology that can detect atrial fibrillation without physical contact using a smartphone camera, according to a Nov. 27 JAMA Cardiology study.

For the proof-of-concept study, researchers analyzed videos of 20 patients with permanent atrial fibrillation and 24 patients in sinus rhythm, which is a cardiac rhythm necessary for normal electrical activity within the heart. The researchers used a digital camera to film different heart-rhythm permutations of the study participants and the patients' facial photoplethysmographic signals were automatically extracted from the videos to detect atrial fibrillation.

Results of the study showed that researchers were able to diagnose patients' atrial fibrillation with specificity and sensitivity of more than 84 percent respectively. The research team concluded that the technology has potential to be applied as a passive diagnostic tool.

Despite the technology's potential to diagnose atrial fibrillation at a lower cost than serial one-on-one consultations, study authors concluded that it must be applied ethically and in a way that respects patients' privacy. The researchers suggested implementing the technology in a seating area within the clinic that is clearly designated for opt-in screening.

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