Heart vests to identify those at high risk of sudden cardiac death

In the UK, heart rhythms affect around two million people and can cause sudden death

A re-useable heart vest developed by researchers from University College London (UCL) could potentially be used to predict and identify people who are at risk of sudden cardiac death.

The study found that the electrocardiographic imaging (ECGI) vest could benefit standard care today because of its re-usability and time efficiency.

Electric signals cause the heart to contract, which regulates its heartbeat. When electrical signals, which cause the heart to contract and regulate the heartbeat, are disrupted, heart rhythm disorders can occur.

Heart rhythms affect around two million people in the UK and can cause sudden death.

Previously, detailed mapping of the heart’s electric activity required inserting a catheter inside the heart cavity or using single-use devices, which were costly, time-consuming to set up and involved radiation.

Funded by the British Heart Foundation, the vest combines electrical data from 256 sensors and detailed MRI images of heart structures to generate 3D digital models of the heart and the electrical waves of activity flowing through it.

After assessing 77 patients, the study concluded that the ECGI vest was reliable and durable to use.

Additionally, the vest could also be “used to assess the impact of drugs, new cardiac devices and lifestyle interventions on heart health,” said Dr Gaby Captur, UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science and the Royal Free Hospital, London.

The device would help clinicians identify those in need of an implantable cardioverter defibrillator to monitor heart rhythm and shock the heart back into a normal rhythm when necessary.

The ECGI vest has successfully been used in 800 patients and is currently being used to map the hearts of people with diseases including hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and dilated cardiomyopathy.

“We believe the vest we have developed could be a quick and cost-effective screening tool and that the rich electrical information it provides could help us better identify people’s risk of life-threatening heart rhythms in the future,” added Captur.

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