The SensiCardiac iPhone app from Diacaustic Medical Devices promises to usher in a new era of cardiac auscultation with its incredible new features. The app utilizes baked-in intelligence to analyze heart murmurs—the heart abnormalities that can signal a life-threatening heart defect. Many murmurs are harmless, and it’s up to doctors to tell the difference. When doctors can’t, they often turn to more sophisticated, and more expensive, tools. It’s the hope of the SensiCardiac’s creators that the app will help doctors identify truly dangerous murmurs sooner, and with more accuracy.
The cloud is a euphemism for the process of storing and accessing programs and files over the Internet. These programs and files are stored securely, with several layers of encryption. This prevents unauthorized users from accessing sensitive information, but it also makes it possible to store data in secure backups. Once a file is saved to the cloud, it is extremely unlikely to be lost. The SensiCardiac makes it possible for doctors to take advantage of this persistence and security as it uploads cardiac audio recordings securely to Diacaustic Medical Devices’ servers.
For the first time, a doctor can easily seek a second opinion from an expert in her field in real-time, even if the expert is on the other side of the world. This is important, as the app generates referrals on its own, using artificial intelligence. Doctors will tend to seek out a well-trained human ear for confirmation of the app’s diagnosis.
SensiCardiac’s cloud-based system allows users to create and store detailed reports on their patients, making it easier for them to track a patient’s condition over time. Specifically, doctors can easily store a patient’s mitral, tricuspid, aortic and pulmonary results for later perusal.
The Power of Form
Heart murmurs can have many causes. The most common murmur is the result of a tear on a heart valve that causes turbulence in blood flow. Other murmurs occur when the heart muscle develops a hole, and still others occur because of irregularly shaped heart valves. Some murmurs are loud enough to hear with the naked ear against the skin, while others are only detectable with the most sensitive of electronic stethoscopes.
Only the most experienced and sharpest-eared doctors can detect these murmurs with any regularity. Perhaps this is what drove physicians over 100 years ago to attempt to convert the fleeting sound of the beating heart into a visual waveform. The first to achieve any amount of success at this was Dutch scientist Willem Einthoven, and in 1924, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for his efforts.
Today, the electrocardiogram, or ECG, is used worldwide to diagnose complex heart problems. Many heart conditions have specific waveforms and can be readily identified by even novice doctors. ECGs are typically ordered when a doctor identifies a murmur or other irregularity, but can’t pinpoint its cause. Unfortunately, as of 2014, an ECG exam costs between $550 and $3,000. The SensiCardiac converts heart sounds into an easy-to-read waveform, and it only costs $360.
Murmur Classification Algorithms
The primary reason that the SensiCardiac does not cost as much as a standard ECG is that it doesn’t require a doctor at the helm. The app contains algorithms that analyze a given heart sound for signs of abnormality. While the app’s algorithms are proprietary, it’s a safe bet that they operate—at least on the surface—by comparing incoming heart sounds to known samples. The app likely compares and contrasts the incoming heart sound with both healthy and diseased samples.
In fact, the app is so accurate that it can generate Class I through Class III cardiac referrals. This provides doctors with peace of mind when sending patients to costly specialists as they can be assured that it may indeed be a matter of life and death. The SensiCardiac is most helpful in detecting Grade 1 and Grade 2 murmurs. These are murmurs that are extremely quiet, and they require a very experienced doctor to diagnose accurately.
The SensiCardiac is compatible with the Littmann 3200 electronic stethoscope as well as the ThinkLabs One handheld stethoscope. The Littmann 3200 is the go-to industry standard in electronic stethoscopes, while the ThinkLabs One is a relative newcomer. Both stethoscopes are stellar, and are quite different from one another. The ThinkLabs One, for instance, fits in the palm of the hand, and it trades eartips for ear buds. It also charges via USB and amplifies sounds over 100 times. The Littmann 3200 has around half the amplification power, but it features incredibly smart noise reduction filters and 3M’s patented Snap Tight Soft-Sealing Eartips.
The SensiCardiac is available for iTunes, and as of 2014, Diacaustic Medical Devices were offering new customers their first month free. The app itself is slim at 14.4 MB, is compatible with iOS7 and is optimized for the iPhone 5.