App upgrades smartphone camera to capture heart health

Researchers from California Institute of Technology, Huntington Medical Research Institute and University of Southern California have developed a mobile application that uses a smartphone camera to noninvasively collect data on a patient’s heart health. Findings are published in The Journal of Critical Care Medicine.

The left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) is measured by assessing the jugular venous pressure in the neck. By estimating the how much blood pumps through the carotid artery, researches can see how much blood is pumped with each beat. Currently, measuring LVEF involves expensive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that takes 45 minutes. This app allows physicians to measure LVEF by holding the smartphone to a patients’ neck for a minute or two.

"In a surprisingly short period of time, we were able to move from invention to the collection of validating clinical data," said Caltech's Mory Gharib PhD and senior author of a paper on the app.

In the study, researchers tested the apps accuracy against an MRI in 72 volunteers between 20 and 92 years old. Results showed the app had a margin of error of 19.1 percent.

"What is exciting about this study is that it shows our technique is as accurate as echocardiography at estimating LVEF when both are compared to the gold standard of cardiac MRI,” said Gharib. “This has the potential to revolutionize how doctors and patients can screen for and monitor heart disease both in the U.S. and the developing world.”