UPC patents system for cardiovascular pre-diagnosis—in under a minute—based on contact with user’s hands or feet


CardioSense provides a cardiovascular pre-diagnosis in less than 60 seconds


Inside the CardioSense cardiograph


CardioSense measures two cardiovascular indicators, which can be viewed on the screen of a mobile device

The UPC patented an affordable, easy-to-use electrocardiograph that can provide a cardiovascular pre-diagnosis in less than a minute. It is the first system to measure both the electrical activity of the heart (electrocardiogram) and its mechanical activity (arterial pulse wave) based on data collected via two metal sensors in contact with the user’s hands or feet. The prototype has already been granted patents in Spain, the United States and China, and applications have also been filed in Europe, Japan, Korea and India.

Sep 01, 2017

Cardiovascular diseases caused three out of every ten deaths in 2012. According to the World Health Organization, that translates into a total of 17.5 million deaths. Many of these tragic outcomes could be prevented through early diagnosis, but the equipment used for cardiovascular diagnosis is usually complex to use and unaffordable for most people.

Now, researchers with the UPC’s Instrumentation, Sensors and Interfaces (ISI) Group, led by Ramon Pallàs, have patented an electrocardiograph that provides a cardiovascular pre-diagnosis in less than 60 seconds. The results are more accurate than those offered by existing devices and can be communicated to medical professionals from any place where there is mobile phone coverage.

Known as CardioSense, this “sentinel” for the heart detects the electrocardiogram signal (the signal generated by heart activity) and the arterial pulse wave (an indicator of arterial elasticity). Measurements are taken by placing two metal sensors in contact with the user’s hands or feet. The sensors can be integrated in a mobile phone or tablet case, watch strap, bathroom scales, steering wheel, handlebars or any wireless technology device that can be picked up, held and touched with both hands or feet at the same time.

The new system can also be incorporated in other devices that use similar sensors, such as body composition analysers that take measurements from sensors that are held in each hand or built into scales. Scales are also an option for CardioSense since readings can be taken through the feet, which opens up the possibility of applying the technology in scales located in pharmacies.

Pioneer in analysing the mechanics of the heart
Small electrocardiographs are already available on the market. These handheld devices can be used to obtain electrocardiograms conveniently at home and transmit readings to a monitoring centre. They are used for postoperative monitoring of patients and periodic checking of people at high risk of a cardiovascular event. The method patented by the UPC differs from existing options in one important respect. It is the first system which, in addition to obtaining an electrical signal, provides information on the mechanical functioning of the heart and the main arteries (the arterial pulse wave, which reaches a point between the heart and the area the sensors are in contact with). The time lag between the ECG signal and the arrival of the pulse wave is a good indicator of the contractility of the heart (its ability to contract in one dimension and expand in others) and the elasticity of arteries. Compared to existing electrocardiographs, the new device thus offers complementary information without being any more technically complex or difficult to use.

CardioSense has other advantages too: it can be used without the help of a health professional; it is not necessary to apply any gel or cream; and no part of the device needs to be in contact with the chest or any part of the body other than the hands or feet. The diagnostic reading can be communicated to medical specialists from any place where there is mobile phone coverage.

A laboratory prototype of the device has already been tested on 15 volunteers, and it has been patented in Spain, the United States and China. Patent applications have also been filed in Europe, Japan, South Korea and India. Preparations are under way for a preclinical validation study involving various groups, including patients with cardiovascular risks from the Physiology Unit of the Department of Physiological Sciences, which is part of the Bellvitge Health Sciences Campus of the University of Barcelona.