Heart attack phone app could save lives

By Abby Gillies

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

A phone app which tells users if they're in danger of having a heart attack has huge potential to help save lives, experts say.

Swiss scientists at Ecole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausann have developed the world's smallest medical implant to monitor critical chemicals in the blood.

The 14mm device measures up to five indicators including heart-specific muscle protein troponin that is dumped into the blood when the fatigued or oxygen-starved muscle has started to break down, technology website Extreme Tech reported.

The heart attack app can also track levels of glucose and lactate, providing data on conditions like diabetes.

Using Bluetooth, the implant can then transmit the data to a smartphone.

New Zealand health experts are supportive of the device, which they say could have positive impact on patients' ownership and the treatment of several conditions but say further research is needed.

Heart Foundation medical director professor Norman Sharpe said such smartphone technology could be very helpful across several areas of health.

"It's exciting and I think it's the sort of thing that should be researched, and we would not want it to be substituted for regular heart health checks and recognition of warning symptoms, seeking medical attention and calling the ambulance early," he said.

Users also needed to be aware that by the time blood changes through the monitoring system were detected, in most cases they would have had symptoms they should seek medical help, Professor Sharpe said.

Auckland Hospital cardiologist Dr Ralph Stewart agreed the technology should not replace medical professionals but instead should be used in conjunction with them.

The app could be helpful but would not be a one-stop shop for patients, said Dr Stewart.

"Certainly in theory it's beneficial to know whether you're going to have a heart attack or to detect it early and this app has the potential to do that.

"There's a lot more to the risk of heart attacks than just detecting the level of troponin in the blood. So there are many factors that determine the risk over time. It certainly is not going to avoid the need to see a doctor," he said.

The app represented the future of technology for which there is a huge market and had the potential to benefit individuals and governments by reducing health costs, said Sulabh Sharma, managing director of app development company Sush Mobile.

"It's incredible what this company has done. It's life-saving."

There was a worldwide trend towards devices that can sit within the body and transmit information, but New Zealand was yet to catch up, said Mr Sharma.

"I haven't heard of any organisation in new Zealand doing anything like that at all."

- APNZ

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