WEDNESDAY, July 18, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- A new device linked to a user's cell phone can text message an alert to a local hospital, warning staff that the patient is about to suffer a heart attack.
An estimated 22 million people are at risk of sudden heart failure at any one time around the world, experts say. But timely care and prompt cardiac surgery can save many people's lives if their heart fails.
The trick is getting medical help quickly enough.
That's where the new device comes in. Reporting in the International Journal of Electronic Healthcare, Thulasi Bai and S.K. Srivatsa from Sathyabama University in Tamil Nadu, India, have developed a wearable cardiac "telemedicine" system for post-cardiac patients.
Unlike other available systems, the new device won't limit the mobility of patients to a hospital or single room, the researchers said.
The prototype Bluetooth heart monitor periodically records an electrocardiogram (ECG) of the wearer's heart and transmits the information via radio frequency signals to his or her modified mobile phone. If signs of imminent heart failure are detected, the phone analyzes the ECG signal and sends a message via the SMS text service to the nearest medical center.
This device was designed to give patients who have already had one heart attack a much greater chance of receiving life-saving treatment within the so-called "golden hour" -- the period during which it is most important to receive medical care.
"Our Wearable Cardiac Telemedicine System can help the mobility of patients, so they can regain their independence and return to an active social life or work schedule, thereby improving their psychological well-being and quality of life," explained Bai in a prepared statement.
The researchers are currently working to integrate global-positioning system (GPS) technology into the modified phone, so the medical center can quickly pinpoint the patient. They also hope to enable the message to be delivered via Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS) in order to improve the level of detail in the message.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has more about heart attack.