Rochester researchers unveil digital stethoscope designed to monitor implanted heart pumps

The smartphone-connected device includes a microphone and ECG leads, and relies on machine learning capabilities to identify irregular heart rhythms.
By Dave Muoio

A team of researchers from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) have unveiled their take on the digital stethoscope, which includes ECG and machine learning capabilities. Of note, the new device is specifically designed to detect arrhythmia issues related to a patient’s heart pump implant.

The design combines a microphone for digital audio recording alongside 3D-printed ECG leads attached directly to the stethoscope’s head. Data collected from these are collected and analyzed in a smartphone interface designed for use by the clinician.

What’s the impact

The new wave of digital stethoscopes represent a consolidation of numerous routine diagnostic methodologies into a single tool, according to Jason Kolodziej, an engineering professor at RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering.

“This stethoscope that we designed integrates multiple sensors into one. It is not necessarily a new sensor that measures something never measured before; it is something that in a hospital setting would be done by multiple machines. Most cardiologists aren’t wheeling around this data collection hardware,” Kolodziej said in a statement.

In addition, these kinds of technologies can play a key role in solidifying what is often an imperfect science.

"It is almost unconscious, like people listening to engines, and hear something off that could mean a problem. But if you ask what sounds different, they may not be able to explain it or articulate it, but they just know,” Steven Day, another professor at the engineering school said in a statement. “This is about getting the device to do that, to hear sounds and then to make that determination of what the problem could be.”

What’s the trend

While traditional stethoscopes may still be common, there’s hardly a shortage of digital and connected alternatives already on the market.

One such company, Eko, announced earlier this year a new round of funding for its ECG-laden device, and just days ago announced a collaboration with the Mayo Clinic involving the technology. This year has also seen the launch of Steth IO, a $199 device cleared by the FDA in 2016 and built into the protective case of an iPhone, and the $499 Stethee for medicine, educational research and veterinary services.

Israel-based TytoCare has also held an FDA clearance for its own digital stethoscope since 2016, which the company uses to power its ecosystem of connected tools for remote and telemedicine visits.Nike Reveal Toronto-Inspired Air Max 97 Ultra