Atrial fibrillation, a common form of abnormal heart rhythm, affects more than 3 million Americans. But, it’s estimated that 30% of people with atrial fibrillation go undiagnosed.
The reserach study tested a new webcam based diagnostic tool for heart problems and was conducted by researchers at the University of Rochester’s School of Medicine and Dentistry, and Xerox.
Researchers programmed a webcam with a Xerox developed algorithm to scan participants faces for the slightest change in skin coloration. Certain changes in skin color, undetectable to the human eye, may indicate a person is experiencing hearth arrhythmia.
The webcam is programmed to look for high levels of hemoglobin, which takes on more of the green spectrum of light. The camera works by detecting reflections of green light as blood pulses through the face. Since the skin on your face is the thinnest and blood vessels are closest to the surface, its easiest to catch changes in blood color here.
11 participants with atrial fibrillation were hooked up to an electrocardiogram, so they could measure the heart’s electrical activity while the 15 second facial scans were being taken. Researchers found that color changes picked-up by the camera corresponded to the heart rate detected on the ECG.
The video monitoring method, called videoplethymography, had an error rate of 20% compared with an error rate of 17-29% for automated ECG measurements.
“This technology holds the potential to identify and diagnosis cardiac disease using contactless video monitoring,” said Jean-Philippe Couderc, one of the researchers from the University of Rochester in a press release. “This is a very simple concept, but one that could enable more people with atrial fibrillation to get the care the care they need.”
The study was funded by Xerox and the Center for Emerging and Innovative Sciences, a New York State-support Center for Advanced Technology.