A new sound synchronization technology which when used along with a revolutionary digital stethoscope could enable doctors to spot the first signs of heart disease easily has been developed by a Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL) team.
The new computer-based technology synchronises the various sounds collected by the stethoscope, which make up a human heartbeat.
The sounds can then be analysed by an existing technique called ICA (independent component analysis), with data presented on a laptop or desktop computer in easy-to-understand graphs.
These provide a visual representation of the heartbeat and any anomalies in it. Currently, such anomalies can be missed by doctors who aren't experts in cardiac care.
ICA can only analyse heartbeats if all the different sounds that make up an individual's heartbeat are brought together as one overall sound.
Like a conventional stethoscope, the new stethoscope captures four sounds one after another.
The QMUL technology then turns these separate sounds into one combined signal, which ICA can then process.
The QMUL synchronisation technology therefore plays a vital bridging role between the new stethoscope and ICA.
The overall stethoscope development project is an international collaboration led by Portugal's University of Porto and Centro Hospitalar Alto Ave, Guimaraes.
As well as being suitable for use in GP surgeries, the stethoscope - called the DigiScope - will be ideally suited to outpatient clinics, accident and emergency units and other hospital departments where doctors are not necessarily cardiac specialists.
QMUL's technology was unveiled on 25th May at the 36th International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing held in Prague in the Czech Republic.