Fast, Precise, and Easy Detection of Irregular Heart Rhythms

New diagnostic may help prevent stroke


Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and the leading cause of serious long-term disability in the United States. A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, often happens when a clot blocks the blood supply to the brain. Electrocardiography (ECG) is one of the most widely used noninvasive diagnostic tools for cardiovascular diseases and plays an essential role in the evaluation of stroke.

Part of the stroke evaluation often includes long-term telemetric ECG monitoring, specifically to detect presence of atrial fibrillation (AF), an irregular heartbeat that can cause blood clots and result in stroke. However, this continuous form of diagnosis is costly and can take months to identify the AF.

University of Michigan's Jimo Borjigin, Ph.D., has developed a novel method to evaluate ECG signals called the electrocardiomatrix (ECM), an IT tool that collects and analyzes ECG data during a patient's hospitalization. The Borjigin's ECM-Stroke team, including Gang Xu, Ph.D. (Engineer), Devin Brown, M.D. (Stroke Neurologist), Michael M. Wang, M.D., Ph.D. (Stroke Neurologist), and Peter Farrehi, M.D. (Cardiologist), is optimistic that the use of ECM technology will promote early and accurate AF detection, prevent future strokes in patients, and help avoid the costs of conducting continuous ECG telemetry. 

"ECM technology is predicted to significantly transform how AFs and other cardiac arrhythmias are detected for both inpatients and outpatients," Borjigin said. "In the long term, ECM will enable more precise diagnosis of heart disease, and will provide more efficient real-time arrhythmia detection to permit timely clinical decisions to be made in the OR, ER, or ICU."

Strokes kill more than 130,000 Americans each year, but up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable. ECM would allow fast and accurate AF detection while patients are hospitalized, providing timely prevention of a future stroke and lowering medical costs overall.

"MTRAC funding will allow us to conduct studies to determine whether ECM technology can offer more accurate detection of cardiac abnormalities than existing methods. On-going studies will help determine if ECM will become the preferred analytic tool in ECG laboratories," Borjigin said.

The University of Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) for Life Sciences Innovation Hub is supported by the U-M Medical SchoolU-M Tech Transfer Office, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and works to "fast forward" projects that have a high potential for commercial success, with the ultimate goal of positively impacting human health. The ECM project is just one of 11 projects in the 2017 cohort funded by MTRAC. In 2014, the program funded 11 teams for early commercialization development, while 11 teams were funded in 2015, and 12 projects were funded in 2016. Dr. Borjigin is a graduate of the FFMI fastPACE course and will be presenting the ECM project at this year's FFMI Biomedical Innovation Cup.

This article originally appeared in the FFMI Newsletter.