World Congress of Cardiology Report - A shirt capable of recording the electrocardiogram (electrical activity of the heart) has been developed and tested in a European research project (WEALTHY, Wearable Health Care System), funded by the European Community.
The first results about the use of the WEALTHY shirt by cardiac patients is being presented at the World Congress of Cardiology 2006 by cardiologists from the Coronary Care Unit and Cardiovascular Informatics and Epidemiology Unit of the San Raffaele Hospital, Milan, Italy.
The shirt takes advantage of the technology of "smart textiles", i.e. textiles endowed with a wide range of electrophysical properties and containing various sensors of biological parameters, in particular tissue electrodes. By twisting stainless steel wires around a viscose yarn a fabric was produced which is capable of working as an electrode (a device to record electrical activity) and therefore able to be used to record the electrocardiogram. The shirt looks like a common shirt and is connected to a small electronical device, which records the electrocardiogram and can transmit it by GPRS network (like a common mobile phone) or by bluetooth connection (like the wireless device used for personal computers or earphones).
The device was tested on 15 cardiac patients, performing different levels of physical activity, and compared to a standard system to record the electrocardiogram commonly used in the hospitals. The electrocardiogram recorded with the WEALTHY shirt was found to be as good as those recorded with the standard reference system. Also the patients found the shirt quite comfortable. The shirt has also the potential to record and transmit other parameters such as respiratory activity, body temperature and movement.
The shirt may be of considerable value as a device for telemedicine services dedicated to the remote care of cardiac patient. Cardiac patients could be monitored at home by simply wearing the shirt and turning on the portable transmission device. This is particularly important as new strategies for home care are pursued to reduce hospital stay and admissions and reduce health care costs.
The WEALTHY project was supported by the European Community and was conducted by a consortium of technological and medical partners from Italy, France, Greece, Germany and Switzerland. The Coordinator of the project was Rita Paradiso from Smartex, an Italian research company of Milior (textile company). The clinical partner of the project is represented by the cardiologists of the Coronary Care Unit and Cardiovascular Informatics and Epidemiology Unit of the San Raffaele Hospital, Milan, Italy. All tests on cardiac patients were conducted in San Raffaele Hospital.
A website on the project, its consortium and its first results is active: http://www.wealthy-ist.com.