Low-cost, cell-phone powered stethoscope ideal for remote care

A new mobile stethoscope kit created by Oxford University and University of Cape Town was developed for global-health use, but could have interesting possibilities in remote areas, or for remote monitoring of low-income cardiac patients in the U.S.

The new m-stethoscope uses a regular cell phone, not a smartphone, to listen to and record cardiac sounds, and allows those recording to be sent to a physician or other practitioner for analysis. Researchers also created a set of algorithms to recognize and identify cardiac rates and sounds, to help with analysis.

"The original idea was that a person could use their own phone to record their heart sounds," physician Thomas Brennan of Oxford University's Department of Engineering Science said in a recent statement, "and that any phone would be able to make an adequate heart sound recording at little or no cost using readily available objects, from which heart rate and abnormal heart sounds could be detected."

One of the big technical challenges for the project, according to iMedicalApps, was overcoming the signal/audio distortions that often occur with low-cost cell phones. Researchers had to create signal processing methods that identified when the audio was sub-par, and alerted the user to re-record the session.

Right now, the m-stethoscope has only been tested in one clinical trial to detect cardiac deterioration in patients with tuberculosis pericarditis. However, researchers say they're now working to expand the technology's use to more general cardiac problems.

To learn more:
- read the HealthJockey story
- check out iMedicalApps' commentary
- dig into the Oxford press release