Sounding out heart problems automatically

Jul 11, 2008

Sounding the chest with a cold stethoscope is probably one of the most commonly used diagnostics in the medical room after peering down the back of the throat while the patient says, "Aaaah". But, research published in the inaugural issue of the International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics looks set to add an information-age approach to diagnosing heart problems. The technique could circumvent the problem of the failing stethoscope skills of medical graduates and reduce errors of judgment

Listening closely to the sound of the beating heart can reveal a lot about its health. Healthcare workers can identify murmurs, palpitations, and other anomalies quickly and then carry out in-depth tests as appropriate. Now, Samit Ari and Goutam Saha of the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur have developed an analytical method that can automatically classify a much wider range of heart sounds than is possible even by the most skilled stethoscope-wielding physician.

Their approach is based on a mathematical analysis of the sound waves produced by the beating heart known as Empirical Mode Decomposition (EMD). This method breaks down the sounds of each heart cycle into its component parts. This allows them to isolate the sound of interest from background noise, such as the movements of the patient, internal body gurgles, and ambient sounds.

The analysis thus produces a signal based on twenty five different sound qualities and variables, which can then be fed into a computer-based classification system. The classification uses an Artificial Neural Network (ANN) and a Grow and Learn (GAL) network. These are trained with standardized sounds associated with a specific diagnosis.

The team then tested the trained networks using more than 100 different recordings of normal heart sounds, sounds from hearts with a variety of valve problems, and different background noises. They found that the EMD system performs more effectively in all cases than conventional electronic, wavelet-based, approaches to heart sound classification.

A disturbing percentage of medical graduates cannot properly diagnose heart conditions using a stethoscope, the researchers explain, and the poor sensitivity of the human ear to low frequency heart sounds makes this task even more difficult. The automatic classification of heart sounds based on Ari and Saha's technique could remedy these failings.

Source: Inderscience Publishers

Explore further: Technique could speed biologic drugs

Related Stories

How can black holes shine?

Apr 06, 2015

We hear that black holes absorb all the light that falls into them. And yet, we hear of black holes shining so brightly we can see them halfway across the Universe. What's going on? Which is it?

Device extracts rare tumor cells using sound

Apr 06, 2015

A simple blood test may one day replace invasive biopsies thanks to a new device that uses sound waves to separate blood-borne cancer cells from white blood cells.

Fitness app connects exercisers to experts

Mar 24, 2015

Can advanced networking and next-generation applications help solve some of our nation's most pressing health problems? Can mobile devices and high-speed Internet be used to improve our health and well-being? ...

Measuring the pulse of trees

Mar 16, 2015

I read many years ago that if you wanted a tree to recognise you, you would need to sit quietly at its base for a week. Very Zen!

Recommended for you

Technique could speed biologic drugs

1 hour ago

Antibodies are specific molecules that can lock onto a particular cellular structure to start, stop or otherwise temper a biological process. Because they are so specific, antibodies are at the forefront ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.