Technology Turns Cheap Cell Phones into Stethoscopes

September 20, 2011 – 5:10 pm

Cell phone stethoscopeA new kit developed by British and South African researchers enables people to record and analyse their heart sounds with a cell phone and send the recordings to their doctor, according to a University of Oxford press release.

Thomas Brennan of University of Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science and Bongani Mayosi of the University of Cape Town came up with the idea after seeing the iPhone app iStethoscope. iPhone owners can use the app by placing the phone against their chest. The built-in microscope then records the user’s heartbeat.

The new kit works in a similar way, but can be used with any cell phone. The prototype uses the microphone of a hands-free kit, fixed at the base of an egg-cup. A rubber o-ring and a plastic transparency are fixed to the other end to ensure a good seal with the chest.

The researchers developed the kit with the goal of reducing the number of people dying from tuberculous pericarditis, a condition affecting up to 2% of TB patients. It might also be used as a screening tool for patients with heart disease.

Thomas teamed up with Gari Clifford of Oxford’s Institute for Biomedical Engineering, to develop the technology. The team is also developing an Android application to record and process the heart sounds.

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