A team of European scientists has developed a handheld laser scanner that can read a heart's vital signs in the same manner that a supermarket barcode reader scans items at checkout. The technology could allow a general practicioner to diagnose preclinical patients for the early onset of a cardiovascular disease, such as coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) can be identified using a number of medical tools, including cardiac biomarkers, cardiac catheterization, chest x-ray, electrocardiogram (ECG), Holter monitoring, and cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). However, because these tools are complicated or expensive (or both), routine early detection of CVD is impossible in several locations around the world.
The handheld laser scanner, dubbed by the research team as CARDIS (CARdiovascular disease Detection with Integrated Silicon Photonics), employs laser Doppler vibrometry to get vital information about the status of the heart using light—and does so in a fast, inexpensive way. It works by harnessing the Doppler effect, the phenomenon used to observe changes in pitch of light or sound from a fixed point, and commonly experienced when an ambulance siren passes and changes in tone.
|Schematic of the CARDIS handheld laser scanner for early detection of cardiovascular diseases.|
Using the Doppler shift of the reflected light, the scanner builds up a vibration map of the chest and heart area, which can highlight the telltale signs of CVD, such as plaque build-up, arterial stiffness, arterial stenosis, or heart dyssyncrony. Therefore, the scanner allows a user to make measurements of the vibration characteristics of the heart without contacting it, according to project coordinator Mirko de Melis.
"A stiff artery creates a faster pulse pressure from the patient's beating heart. By measuring the 'pulse wave velocity,' we can assess the stiffness of the arteries using light and make informed judgements, long before the onset of cardiovascular disease," de Melis explains.
Although there are a number of vibration sensors that exist for this purpose, laser Doppler vibrometry is noninvasive and provides a much higher degree of accuracy in a fraction of the time.
"The screening of potential sufferers, who are in their early 40s, would delay the onset of the condition by 5-10 years. Assuming a sufferer would comply with the health advice given and adopted a change in lifestyle, this device allows the medical professional to halt or even reverse CVD," de Melis says.
The CARDIS scanner would cost around €1500 (just over $1700), and the project partners are preparing to unravel their prototype in the summer of 2018.
The project received over €3.6 million (over $4.1 million) in grant funding from Horizon 2020 via the Photonics Public Private Partnership.
For more information, please visit www.cardis-h2020.eu.