Engineers at Imperial College London have received a £760,000 grant from the Wellcome Trust to develop an implantable sensor that will provide 24 hour monitoring for patients with chronic heart problems.
Once developed, the miniature sensor, which is smaller than a five pence piece, will monitor the hearts of people who have undergone heart operations or who have conditions that could lead to heart failure.
Currently, patients who have chronic heart conditions need to be regularly monitored in hospital to detect changes in their condition. This is time consuming and inconvenient for patients and costly for hospitals.
Engineers believe that their implantable sensor could improve heart monitoring by remotely providing a constant flow of information about the pressure inside the heart. This would enable doctors to more accurately predict serious illnesses, improve the timing of operations to maximise their effectiveness and free the patient from regular visits to the hospital.
Patients would be able to view readings from the sensor via a wearable reader, while doctors could take measurements by dialling up the reader via a mobile phone or by logging onto a secure internet site. The reader could also be set to automatically send alarms to the doctor if a patient’s heart reading reaches critical levels.
‘At the touch of a few buttons a family doctor could dial up their patient’s heart history and plot pressure trends to better manage their condition and prevent the progression of heart failure,’ said Prof Christofer Toumazou, from Imperial College London’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering.
Sir Magdi Yacoub, Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Imperial College London, has trialled the pressure sensor successfully on animal laboratory models.
‘I think this sensor will have a major impact on the management of patients and will help to guide doctors when timing operations to maximise their benefits for patients,’ said Yacoub.
Researchers from the Institute of Biomedical Engineering including Sir Magdi Yacoub, Prof Chris Toumazou, Dr Olive Murphy, Dr Tony Vilches and Prof Chris McLeod are planning human trials for 2009.
Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, is the main cause of death in the UK. In 2005, it accounted for about 4 out of every 10 deaths. Worldwide, 15 million people died from heart disease in 2005.