A Chinese research team has created a radio-wave electrocardiogram (ECG) scanner capable of detecting the electrical activity of the human heart from a distance. The milestone achievement makes monitoring vital signs remotely a reality.
The ECG has been used by medical professionals for a century to measure the voltage generated by the heart during each cardiac cycle over time.
Typically, small electrodes are placed on the patient’s bare chest which detect minute electrical differences during each heartbeat.
Depending on the circumstances, an ECG that detects electrical abnormalities in the subject could indicate one of several issues within the cardiac system, including heart attacks, coronary heart disease, arrhythmia and electrolyte deficiencies.
However, researchers affiliated with the University of Science and Technology of China found the need for skin contact could restrict the “reliability and adaptability of continual monitoring” and resolved to find a contactless solution.
In their research paper, published in the peer-reviewed journal, IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing, the scientists detailed how they utilised a millimetre wave radar to pick up the motion of the heart and transform those visual cues into an electrical signal.
According to the authors, their remote ECG-like system could assist in the day-to-day monitoring of heart disturbances.
Previous research has shown that radio frequency-based sensors are capable of tracking the mechanical activity of a heart during the cardiac cycle.
The Chinese researchers developed an algorithm that provides a detailed breakdown of the heart’s condition by processing the distinct motion signals given off by the pumping action of a beating heart.
To ensure their ECG readings were not compromised by external factors, the algorithm was programmed to exclude certain motions that could taint the data, such as the rising and falling of the chest during breathing and unwanted ambient noise, according to the South China Morning Post.
Their study, consisting of 35 subjects, compared standard ECG readings against the team’s contactless creation over a ten-hour span.
Promising early results showed the remote radio radar was accurate 90% of the time while being 14 milliseconds slow in terms of its accuracy over time.
Co-author of the paper, Chen Yan, said he and his colleagues were working with several prominent hospitals to clear the device for clinical applications.
Chen said it would assist doctors and medical professionals in their daily monitoring of heart disease and other related issues.