Digital stethoscope

A digital stethoscope that claims to improve the detection of abnormal heart murmurs is being developed by a bioengineer at Strathclyde University.

Researcher Richard Boyle has designed the dual-probe device to improve diagnosis of early heart disease in young children, as well as congenital conditions, such as a hole in the heart.

‘The difficulty with a conventional stethoscope is that it is very difficult to hear the difference between a harmless murmur and an abnormal one, particularly if you’re working in a noisy environment such as a hospital,’ he explained. ‘With this technology, we’re hoping to isolate the sound of abnormal murmurs so that they can be detected more easily.’

The technology features a signal processing algorithm that reduces the effect of normal heart sounds and enhances the sound of suspicious murmurs. It also has a portable hard-drive attachment so that readings can be downloaded and sent directly to a cardiologist, reducing the time between diagnosis and treatment.

Boyle said: ‘We’ve been in contact with the research-and-development department and a cardiac surgeon in the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank and are hoping to collaborate with them in the next few months. If trials go well, we intend to commercialise the device towards the end of 2010.’

Work on the digital stethoscope is being funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Scottish Enterprise, who are also providing support in the form of industry expertise.

Boyle plans to approach some large biomedical companies at the end of 2009 to form partnerships for further product development.

Ellie Zolfagharifard