30-second cell phone video can detect stroke risk, study finds

A study carried out at the National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei and published on Wednesday by Journal of the American Heart Association can help prevent stroke and, best of all, in a non-invasive and simple way.

That’s because through a video of about 30 seconds made by a cell phone, the Taiwanese researchers were able to capture the movement of blood flow just under the skin and it was possible to detect the narrowing of arteries in the volunteers’ necks. This is an important risk factor for stroke.

“This was an exciting ‘eureka’ moment for us. Existing diagnostic methods — ultrasound, CT and MRI — require screening with medical imaging equipment and personnel. Analyzing video recorded on a smartphone is non-invasive and easy to perform, and therefore may provide an opportunity to increase screening,” said Hsien-Li Kao, cardiologist at National University Hospital of Taiwan and study author.

The trial took place between 2016 and 2019 and used motion magnification and pixel analysis — the smallest unit of a digital image — to detect minute changes in the surface of the skin captured by the cell phone.

The 202 adults were filmed lying on their backs, with their heads tilted back inside a custom box, to minimize external movement. Among the volunteers, 54% had significant carotid stenosis—narrowing—that is, they had at least 50% of blockage previously diagnosed by ultrasound, while 46% did not have the problem.

The device used by the researchers was an iPhone 6, 64 GB. Kao said they used an older cell phone because they believed it would be more common for the average user.

Video motion analysis had an 87% accuracy rate in detecting stenosis in the group known to have carotid artery stenosis. All study participants also had a standard Doppler ultrasound test to confirm the narrowing in their arteries and to assess and validate the estimates from video motion analysis.

The trial analyzed an audience considered at risk: 79% were men, with a mean age of 68 years. So the researchers acknowledge that further studies need to be done, but the finding is significant.

“Carotid artery stenosis is silent until a stroke occurs. With this method, doctors can record a video of the patient’s neck with a smartphone, submit the videos for analysis, and receive a report within five minutes. Early detection of carotid artery stenosis may improve patient outcomes.”

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