One of the greatest challenges in a rural setting would be the lack of medical facilities – and having the right equipment is vital to keeping one alive, especially in an emergecy situation. It’s estimated that about half of all Africans own a cell phone. Yet, many of these cell phone owners lack access to proper medical services. One disease responsible for killing many Africans is tuberculous pericarditis, an aggressive type of TB affecting 2% of TB patients in which the lining of the heart becomes infected.

A team of researchers from the University of Oxford started working on a new kind of stethoscope which will wholly rely on the microphone input of a cell phone. This is a basic stethoscope, sporting an external microphone that is attached to the base of an egg-cup in order to focus and collect any sound. The phonocardiograms recorded can be analyzed by a computer to filter out distortion and noise and process the signal to identify heart rate and abnormal heart sounds.

The stethoscope has been tested with an iPhone 3G and a Nokia 3100 Classic. Surprisingly, the Nokia 3100 Classic outperformed a 3M Littmann Electronic Stethoscope in detecting heart rate. According to Oxford, an Android version of the phonocardiogram processing software is also in the works.

Extracted from original : University of Oxford’s Science Blog (Mobile phones offer heart lifeline)