What the heart wants ...smarter monitoring systems
Abnormal heart rhythm is a major cause of cardiovascular disease and death in Europe. An EU-supported programme has made several advances in wearable technology to more comfortably monitor the heart over longer periods, in the hope of saving lives and cutting treatment costs.
© beatleoff #201707721, source: fotolia.com, 2018
Climbing the stairs, rushing to catch the bus or even sitting down to a meal or watching the television. One minute the heart is doing its job without cause for concern, the next there might be a missed beat or, worse, a sharp stabbing pain.
The most common forms of arrhythmia are ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation. For people still able to walk, atrial fibrillation is associated with increased risk of stroke and heart failure. But it does not have to be that way.
If arrhythmias are detected at an early stage of heart disease, appropriate treatment can be effective, reducing disability and death, according to the team behind the EU-funded WASTCArD project. Their aim is to develop better monitoring systems to pick up even the most transient signs of danger, which can occur anywhere and at any time. For this, monitoring needs to be reliable and non-invasive, and must take place over longer periods.
WASTCARD is developing new wearable smart technologies to record the hearts daily rhythm for more than 36 hours at a time. The system uses novel electro-cardiogram (ECG) sensors that pass signals to an embedded real-time arrhythmia detector.
Dealing with noise
The project team have clinically tested several advances in sensing technology using dry electrodes. Wet or gel-based electrodes that are typically effective at picking up ECG signals from the skin would simply not be practical for longer-term monitoring, the team realised. They also resolved the problem of remote-field noise, which can interfere with the signal between the wearable monitor and detector, by developing a smart filter with a clever algorithm to process the signals.
Improvements in these enabling technologies once complete and fully integrated in a functioning wearable e-health detection system should help to diagnose potentially life-threatening heart disease much earlier, reducing medical interventions and hospital costs, and saving lives along the way.
This Marie SkÅ‚odowska-Curie RISE staff exchange project has led to valuable collaboration between the north and south of Ireland, and with partners in Croatia and France, which hosted a conference on Wearable comfortable sensors for long-term monitoring.