ECG made easier: Here’s how findings by this four-member research group simplify the complex process

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New Delhi | Published: January 15, 2018 10:50:04 AM

The ECG measures the electrical activity of the heart and produces a graphical outcome. Doctors analyse these waveforms to judge the health of the heart, whether it is beating normally or is under some kind of stress.

Research finds out a new way to study ECG

Increasing pollution and lifestyle hazards have made current times perilious for your heart. You must have noticed doctors increasingly recommending an ECG to ascertain the condition of one’s heart, but do you know that coming out with the results of an ECG entail a complex calculation. The ECG measures the electrical activity of the heart and produces a graphical outcome. Doctors analyse these waveforms to judge the health of the heart, whether it is beating normally or is under some kind of stress. Unlike many other diagnostic tests, like those for blood samples or urine for example, ECG reports do not contain numerical values that can be compared to standard healthy values. In fact, what appears on the graph paper is not a single waveform. It is a combination of many waves of differing frequencies and amplitudes.

Doctors use their expertise and experience to draw conclusions from these complex waveforms. The heights, or amplitudes, of these waveforms and the intervals at which they occur in the ECG output are some important things that doctors look out for. To add to the complexity, there are no standards of a healthy heart waveform. Age, gender, habits, stress or anxiety levels, and many other parameters determine the pattern that is produced. As such, doctors resort to a lot of correlational analysis with the patient’s personal and medical history to understand the ECG reports.

Now, a research group led by G Ambika with members – Snehal M Shekatkar and Yamini Kotriwar, at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, and their collaborator, K P Harikrishnan at The Cochin College in Kochi, have undertaken a Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) research project funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), has come out with some exciting findings. According to their research, four quantifiers (of the heart) whose values could uniquely reveal whether a heart was functioning normally or afflicted with some disease, as per a report by The Indian Express. The findings are significant as they make it possible to distinguish between a diseased and normal heart just by knowing the values of these quantifiers, with a very high degree of accuracy.

As of now, with their current level of research, the scientists cannot zero in on the kind of disease that might be afflicting the heart by just looking at the values of these quantifiers. But Ambika says it is possible to do so, as per a report by The Indian Express. For that, they need to look at data from many more ECG reports for each specific disease.

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