IIT-Hyderabad model to make ECGs available in remote areas

New Delh: Researchers at IIT- Hyderabad (IIT-H) have come up with a cost and time effective method of treating cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) in remote areas where tertiary care units are not available.

A team of four IIT-H professors have proposed a two-tier-cardiology framework in which electrocardiogram (ECG) records can be transmitted even when available resources such as power and bandwidth are limited.

“A major chunk of the population lives in rural or semi-urban areas where healthcare facilities are inefficient and inadequate. To address this issue, we used compressed sampling ECG signals, applied mathematics and allied fields like machine learning,” S. Jana, one of the team-members, told IANS.

“We have successfully designed practical compressive classifiers that require only a fraction of the usual number of ECG measurements for analysis, classification and reconstruction,” he added.

The team, also comprising C.S. Sastry, B.S. Chandra, and T. Roopak, believes that ECGs play a critical role in timely diagnosis and treatment, and the slightest delay in conducting and communicating the results could prove fatal for patients in need of immediate medical attention.

“The proposed solution will not only reduce the need to transport the patient to a diagnostic centre but will also be time- and cost-effective,” Jana added.

The team also believes that the proposed new paradigm will bring even the remotest communities under the ambit of integrated healthcare services.

“Although the algorithm accuracy check has been done, the system will take at least six months to be functional on the ground,” Jana said.

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), which have been the leading cause of death the world over, are also a major health issue in rural and urban India.

Life expectancy up in India, women live over New Delhi: According to a study published in the journal The Lancet, Indians now live longer compared to 1990 as life expectancy has increased by 6.9 years for men between 1990 and 2013 and 10.3 years for women during the same period.

Increase in life expectancy is more in the case of women than men. In 1990, the life expectance was 57.25 years for men, and 59.19 years for women. This has now increased to 64.16 years for men and 68.48 years for women in 2013.

But, healthy life expectancy has increased more slowly with diseases such as ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lower respiratory infections, tuberculosis and neonatal disorders causing the most health loss in India.

In 2013, the top ten causes of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) in both sexes in India were from ischemic heart disease, COPD, TB, lower respiratory infections, neonatal preterm birth, neonatal encephalopathy, diarrhoea, stroke, road injuries, and low back and neck pain.

For Indian men, the fastest-growing leading causes of health loss between 1990 and 2013 were self-harm, ischemic heart disease and stroke, which increased at rates of 149.9 per cent, 79.9 per cent, and 59.8 per cent respectively. While self-harm did not figure among India’s top ten causes of health loss in 1990, it is ranked tenth in men in 2013. Iron-deficiency anaemia, which was ranked ninth in 1990 in men, is no longer the cause of health loss in 2013.

In the case of women, the largest increases among the leading causes of disability-adjusted life years occurred for ischemic heart disease (69 per cent), depressive disorders (66.1 per cent), and stroke (36.8 per cent). Only ischemic heart disease was among the 10 leading causes of health loss for women in 1990.

Stroke and depressive disorders are new causes of health loss seen in 2013 but not in 1990 in Indian women. “More awareness of mental health issues and better detection and documentation could be one of the reasons for depressive disorders to show up in the list,” said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Director-General of the Indian Council of Medical Research.

“The big jump in life expectancy is in keeping with the development of the country.But the downside is that diseases that were not seen in 1990 are seen now. India is transitioning and inheriting some of the diseases seen in the developed countries. Obesity and high blood pressure are the leading risk factors for heart diseases and stroke,” remarked a doctor.

On TB continuing to be among the top five leading causes of disease burden in India in 2013, Dr. Swaminathan said: “Globally TB has gone down but not in India. India hasn’t been as successful as it should have been in controlling it. We can’t ignore TB and other infectious diseases just because lifestyle diseases are growing.”

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