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Smartphone Add-On Found Comparable to Pro Stethoscopes

Heartbuds device

Heartbuds device (Orlando Health)

12 November 2015. A device added to ordinary smartphones was found in a clinical trial to transmit cardiovascular sounds as well as professional stethoscopes used by clinicians, and better than FDA-approved disposable stethoscopes. Developers of the Heartbuds device and app, from Orlando Health, a health care provider in Florida, presented their test results earlier this week at a scientific meeting of American Heart Association.

Heartbuds is a round acoustical recorder shaped something like the head of a stethoscope that attaches to the phone.  With the app, currently available for iPhones, the phone amplifies, displays blips, and records heart rhythms. The developers point out that the device is designed only for informational observations, not for diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of disease.

David Bello, a cardiologist at Orlando Health and University of Florida medical school, and colleagues developed Heartbuds for individuals to track their own heart rhythms, as well as record and share their results with physicians. At the scientific meeting, Bello’s team revealed results of a clinical trial testing Heartbuds against commonly used analog and electronic stethoscopes, including disposable stethoscopes.

The trial tested the devices with 50 adult patients as subjects, where two clinicians independently examined each patient for heart murmurs and carotid bruits, sounds in the neck indicating a blockage in the carotid artery. Examiners rated the acoustical quality of the devices used and completed forms documenting the sounds they heard.

The results found Heartbuds reveals both heart murmurs and carotid bruits with the same frequency as professional analog and electronic stethoscopes, the analog Littmann Cardiology III and electronic Littmann Electronic 3200. The examiners also found the acoustical quality of Heartbuds comparable to these stethoscope models.

However, the examiners more accurately identified heart murmurs and carotid bruits with Heartbuds than with disposable stethoscopes. The disposable models, which the authors say are FDA-approved, missed 43 percent of heart murmurs and as many as 75 percent of carotid bruits. Some health care facilities now use disposable stethoscopes to reduce the risk of spreading bacteria through sharing of medical devices.

While Heartbuds as a diagnostic device will remain in the hands of clinicians, Bello believes the device can involve patients more actively in their own care. He notes in an Orlando Health statement that patients “can take a recording of their heart and lungs at home, upload them and send them to their doctor, who can evaluate them without the patient ever leaving home if it’s not necessary.”

The Orlando Health team demonstrates Heartbuds in the following video.

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