Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are on the rise across the globe due to lifestyle disorders.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), diseases such as stroke and ischemic heart disease roughly account for 17.7 million deaths only in India. This number includes a large set of younger populations. COVID-19 pandemic is acting as a trigger as the virus alone can be a cause for heart attack. The World Heart Federation (WHF) observes September 29, every year as World Heart Day. This year the objective for World Heart Day 2021 is Globally harnessing the power of digital health to improve awareness, prevention, and management of CVD.
Cardiac care has witnessed a significant transformation over the last decade. With Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) playing an important role, cardiologists and cardiac surgeons are bringing unprecedented revolutions in cardiac treatment mechanisms. These technological advancements are facilitating early detection and treatment of critically ill patients thus, improving outcomes.
Let us delve into the work-in-progress technologies that can change the meaning of cardiac care.
Personalized heart models
Have you ever heard of patient-specific 3D models of heart that can aid a doctor in understanding the nature of heart disease? Scientists at University College London have developed such 3D-printed models from MRI scans of children born with heart defects (congenital heart diseases). These models can also boost patients’ and their families’ understanding of the heart condition. The same team is also working to produce computer simulations, to help a surgeon planning surgery for such children. This personalized approach in cardiac care will help surgeons and patients decide on the best treatment modalities.
Skin patch to counterstroke
A simple skin patch may help in improving the survival chances of stroke victims.
Unbelievable but true. Researchers at the University of Nottingham are working on a skin patch that can be applied in an ambulance immediately after a patient suffers a suspected stroke attack. This patch, which delivers the drug glyceryl trinitrate, can widen blood vessels and lower blood pressure, thereby reducing the potential damage caused by stroke.
Starting treatment within an hour of stroke could revolutionize stroke care. Treating patients inside the ambulances on the way to the hospital will save vital time and aid recovery.
Scientists are hoping, if this patch is safe to use, it can be used by paramedics in the ambulance also or in places where conventional treatment facilities are not available.
Implantable heart-rhythm monitors
Most heart failure patients may experience an irregularity in heart rhythm. It can be too slow, too fast, or irregular. Presently we are using ECG recording to trace an irregularity in heart rhythm. ECG can give you a picture of that moment only. What if a doctor wants to track rhythm over a longer period to have a better understanding of the patient’s health?
Researchers are working on implantable cardiac monitors. These are tiny devices that can be implanted under the skin for recording heart rhythm.
Nanomaterials for fighting cholesterol
We all know fatty deposits in blood vessels are one of the most common causes of various cardiovascular diseases. Though statins can help to lower the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in the blood, they can affect other tissues like muscles making some people intolerant to statins.
Scientists are working on nanomaterials. These nanomaterials can deliver cholesterol-lowering drugs exactly to the sites where they are needed most. Nanomaterials are incredibly small but have very high stability. They biodegrade on their own once the drugs have been delivered to specific sites.
Use of Artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to interpret heart condition
Let’s start with the basics. Artificial intelligence is the ability of a machine to solve those complex problems that would otherwise require human intervention. Advances in technology have made it possible for machines to accurately and quickly analyze large amounts of data. This learning improves decision-making, accurate diagnosis, and treatment planning by detecting specific patterns in patient data.
Cardiovascular doctors and scientists are now combining artificial intelligence with clinical practice for better care. Here are two examples of how doctors are using AI for better outcomes.
- For people with stroke – the computer trained to analyze CT data, can examine the scan, diagnose the stroke, and thus saving valuable time.
- Preventing heart problems – Applying AI to ECGs can be used to detect any abnormality in the heart pump, which if left untreated can lead to heart failure.