In 2015, cardiovascular conditions were responsible for 30% of deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Cardiovascular disease continues to be a leading cause of death, and diagnosis can be expensive.
European scientists (part of a collaboration called CARDIS, or Cardiovascular Disease Detection with Integrated Silicon Photonics) have developed a diagnostic tool that reads the heart’s vital signs with a simple click of a button. The scanner uses laser doppler vibrometry, a method that employs photonics technology, to detect important information about the heart’s status. By building a vibration map of the chest and heart region, the device can spot signs of cardiovascular disease, including plaque build up, arterial stiffness or stenosis, or heart dyssyncrony.
“Our device employs the latest photonics technology, allowing a user to make measurements of the vibration characteristics of the heart without even touching it,” said Mirko de Melis, project coordinator, in a press release. “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 judgments, long before the onset of cardiovascular disease.” He added that the long-term goal of the CARDIS team is to make the scanner available to general practitioners for use in routine health exams.
De Melis anticipates the scanner will be much cheaper than current products on the market. “With cost of an Echocardiographer anything above €100,000, and an arterial tonometer at €5000– €6000, the CARDIS scanner would be reasonably priced at around €1500. However, it is the potential savings on our health services caused by the early diagnosis and prevention of CVD that will be the most rewarding,” he said.
Ideally, the device would allow physicians to screen adults in their early 40s, which could potentially delay the onset of the condition by up to 10 years if the patient is compliant with health advice and a change in lifestyle.
The CARDIS team plans to introduce the prototype in summer 2018.