Heart failure (HF, inability of the heart to pump blood) is a disabling, deadly and costly condition. Worldwide, HF is recognized as an escalating public health problem, likely to reach ‘epidemic’ proportions in developed countries (Stewart S. et al, 2001). Healthcare cost on HF in developed countries consumes 1–2% of the total health care budget. HF is the single most expensive diagnosis in the US health care system, and total costs for HF care were estimated at $37 billion in 2009. HF is as ‘malignant’ as many common types of cancer: 50% of patients die within 5 years once diagnosed for HF. However, HF is often difficult to diagnose in the primary care setting, and many patients remain undiagnosed and untreated (Sim V et al, 2003). In most developed countries, there are routine cancer screening programs. However, there is a general lack of screening programs for the early detection of HF. The most useful diagnostic test for HF is the echocardiogram (ECHO). However, duration of the ECHO test is 20-30 minutes, it needs highly trained personnel, and has prohibitively high cost. Early detection of HF would require a diagnostic screening test that would be simple, fast, operator-independent and low cost technology.

The new device will be exactly simple, fast, operator independent and low cost. In the same time will have diagnostic accuracy comparable to ECHO. Such a test would save lives and significantly reduce HF treatment costs. European start-up company DIASENS develops a new device and method which will combine two conventional diagnostic technologies, ECG (electrocardiograph) and phonocardiograph (PHONO, electronic stethoscope), with novel fibre Bragg grating (FG) optical sensors used for detection of the movement of thorax surface caused by the movement of the heart apex and with CSC laser or FG sensors for measurement the blood pressure pulse waveforms in one of the major arteries.

Fig. 1. Multi-channel diagnostic via different types of instruments.

Comparing to the echocardiogram (ECHO), the product under development has a number of advantages:

  • Fast – less than 5 minutes versus 10-30 minutes for ECHO,
  • Easy to use – will be performed by a nurse, while ECHO needs highly trained personnel
  • Inexpensive
  • Screening test – suitable for primary care (family practitioners and GP’s), unlike ECHO.

With these features the developed device and method will have potential to become a screening diagnostic methods available in the primary health care units covering not only diagnoses achievable by the conventional ECG and PHONO methods but also early detection of heart failure (HF), LVH (Left Ventricular hypertrophy), valvular diseases that are not detectable by conventional screening methods.