You’ve noticed that the camera on your phone has improved exponentially over the years.
But now it could be good enough to save your life – by detecting if you’re at risk of a stroke.
Scientists have developed an algorithm that assesses the width of the arteries in your neck.
The program works by scanning a 30-second video of someone’s neck taken from a modern smartphone.
Narrowed arteries in the neck – medically known as carotid stenosis – are one of the leading causes of stroke.
Researchers in Taiwan took videos of more than 200 elderly patients’ necks using a 2014 iPhone 6.
Participants were forced to lie on their backs and put their heads in a box while being filmed by a mounted mobile phone.
The algorithm identified nearly nine out of 10 patients who had narrowed arteries and were therefore at risk of stroke.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Hsien-Li Kao of the National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei said the finding was a “eureka moment”.
Currently, symptoms such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol need to be detected before a patient is sent for a scan.
In an experimental study, participants lay on their backs with their heads in a box that restricted movement while a smartphone camera was sued to film the arteries in their necks in action.
This footage was run through an algorithm that looked for tiny changes in the skin that couldn’t be seen with the naked eye that might indicate the blood supply to the brain was under strain, and highlighted them pixel by pixel in blue.
CAUSES of stroke
PUSH there are two main types of stroke:
1. ISCHEMIC TRAVEL COIL
An ischemic stroke – which accounts for 80 percent of strokes – occurs when a blood vessel becomes blocked, preventing blood from reaching part of the brain.
2. HEMORRHAGIC TRAVEL PLACES
A rarer, hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel ruptures, flooding part of the brain with too much blood while depriving other areas of sufficient blood supply.
It can be the result of an AVM or arteriovenous malformation (abnormal cluster of blood vessels) in the brain.
Thirty percent of patients suffering from subarachnoid hemorrhage die before reaching the hospital. Another 25 percent die within 24 hours. And 40 percent of survivors die within a week.
Age, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, family history, and history of previous stroke or TIA (small stroke) are all risk factors for having a stroke.
SYMPTOMS OF TRAVEL STROKE
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding
- Sudden vision problems or blurred vision in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Of the roughly three in four people who survive a stroke, many will be disabled for life.
This includes difficulty walking, communicating, eating, and completing daily tasks or household chores.
Both are potentially fatal and patients require surgery or a drug called tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) within three hours to save them.
The video diagnosis method was “easy to do,” so it should be possible to develop a phone app that could boost stroke screening and save millions of lives, he said.
Current methods for assessing stroke risk use expensive scanners such as ultrasound, CT, and MRI that require dedicated equipment and personnel.
However, the authors said this could be limited to doctors using just a smartphone and using an app to get a diagnosis in just five minutes.
A stroke is a life-threatening condition where the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted.
They are one of the leading causes of death and disability in both the UK and the US.
Ischemic strokes, which account for about 85 percent of all strokes, are caused by a blood clot in the arteries that supply the brain, depriving it of oxygen.
These blood clots are usually caused by a buildup of fatty plaque inside the arteries, which then breaks loose and causes a blockage. This can cause permanent disability and even death.
Dr Kao, a cardiologist, said better and earlier detection of those at risk of stroke was vital.
Currently, between 2 and 5 percent of strokes occur each year in those who have no symptoms.
The researchers recruited 202 hospital patients in Taiwan who were 68 years old on average between 2016 and 2019.
About half had significant carotid stenosis – meaning their arteries were narrowed to half their size due to a build-up of fatty deposits.
The others did not have this problem.
For the experiment, each participant lay supine with their head in a box that restricted movement.
An Apple iPhone 6 was mounted on the box and recorded a 30-second video of their necks.
The clips were then put through a video motion analysis algorithm that examined the skin surrounding the arteries in the neck pixel by pixel, looking for tiny signs that they were straining to supply blood due to fat accumulation.
The findings, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, show that the videos detected 87 percent of cases of stenosis.
Dr Kao said: “Carotid artery stenosis is silent until a stroke occurs.”
“With this method, doctors can be able to record a video of a patient’s neck using a smartphone, upload the videos for analysis and receive a report within five minutes.
“Early detection of carotid artery stenosis may improve patient outcomes.”
The researchers noted that the study included only a small number of participants.
Another type of stroke is a hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel bursts, flooding part of the brain with too much blood and depriving other areas of an adequate blood supply.
The risk of stroke generally increases with age as the arteries naturally narrow, but several lifestyle factors can speed up the process.
Smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise can increase the risk of stroke by contributing to high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
There are more than 100,000 strokes in the UK every year, causing 38,000 deaths. About 1.3 million people in the UK have survived a stroke.
More than 795,000 people have a stroke in the US each year, and 137,000 of them die.