NICVA: A non-invasive device for fast cardiovascular condition assessment

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The Instrumentation, Sensors and Interfaces Group (ISI) has developed NICVA, a new, non-invasive portable medical device to rapidly assess cardiovascular functioning.

Cardiovascular diseases are one of the main causes of death worldwide. This type of diseases do not tend to present previous or warning symptoms, and the first sign may be a heart attack or a stroke. Early diagnosis and periodic monitoring of patients at cardiovascular risk could reduce mortality. The current technology that we have only offers partial solutions as extra-hospital devices measure a limited number of physiological parameters and each one of them needs a specific device, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG), blood pressure monitor, pulse oximeter, echocardiogram or ergometer for stress tests.

NICVA is a medical device, currently in prototype phase, that can monitor the functioning of the cardiovascular system by detecting the electrocardiogram (ECG) and at the same time obtaining data on the mechanical function of the heart and arteries through a proximal arterial pulse wave and two distal waves with respect to the heart. These three waves provide information on myocardial contractility and arterial elasticity, which is related to arterial blood pressure. All of this is achieved with just four dry electrodes, two for each hand or arm. The arterial pulse waves are obtained by measuring changes in electrical impedance between electrodes, that is, how difficult it is for an electrical current to flow through tissues between electrodes. The current is imperceptible and harmless, like those used in some devices used to measure body composition manually or in scales.

Blood ejection and pulse wave propagation on each heartbeat reduce the electrical impedance. The time interval between the ECG and the proximal pulse wave is an indicator of the speed with which the left ventricle contracts and the elasticity of the arterials close to the heart. The time interval between the proximal pulse wave and the distal pulse wave in each arm is, in turn, an indicator of the elasticity of peripheral arteries. The difference in arrival time of the two distal pulse waves is an indicator of a possible autonomic neuropathy. The system also obtains the respiratory frequency and information on the volume of air inspired and expired with each breath.

NICVA is a device that can be used on yourself without any previous training because it is simple, intuitive, convenient and fast. It could help at-home monitoring of cardiac rehabilitation and of people at cardiovascular risk or those who take part in clinical trials. In old people’s homes or day centres, it could save a lot of time in routine controls as it works with people standing up, sitting down or lying down, without having to even undo a button, and regardless of the weight and diameter of the arms. In gyms and sports clubs, haemodynamic improvements due to training could be monitored and risk situations prevented. In emergencies, the functioning of the heart could be detected rapidly by measuring between the hands.

The project is jointly funded by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as part of the ERDF’s Operational programme for Catalonia 2014–2020.



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