SINGAPORE: A new medical tool developed by Singapore researchers will be able to more accurately predict the risk of heart failure in patients.

After five minutes of a non-invasive procedure, this tool calculates a patient's Heart Rate Variability(HRV), the change in time intervals between heartbeats.

This would help doctors determine if a patient is at risk of suffering heart failure in the next 72 hours. A preliminary study has showed that when combined with traditional methods of diagnosis, there was a 50 per cent increase in accuracy.

According to Professor Marcus Ong, consultant to the Department of Emergency Medicine in Singapore General Hospital (singapore general hospital), this tool would help physicians "make better decisions" when treating patients.

This is especially so in a high-pressure medical environment like singapore general hospital, where its emergency department can see up to 500 patients daily, with half of them having critical conditions like heart attacks or strokes.

"So for example, if I have two very sick patients that need an ICU bed, and I only have one ICU bed left in the whole hospital, who should get the ICU bed? In this case, if for one patient, the device signals 70 percent of cardiac arrest, the other one has a 40 percent risk of cardiac arrest, then the decision is clear - which patient should get higher priority and resources," said Professor Ong.

Researchers from the Singapore General Hospital and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) took five years to develop the device and are currently working with a commercial partner to develop a prototype.

Associate Professor Lin Zhiping of the School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering in NTU is aiming for a more portable device.

"Currently, the software we developed is put into a notebook PC which can do the processing in real-time. But taking a notebook PC is still not very convenient to different places. And what we're aiming to do is to build this device into a small box," said Professor Lin.

It is hoped that the tool will eventually be included as a standard component in monitoring equipment at the hospitals' A&E departments.

The total cost of the project was S$500,000, parts of which were funded by SingHealth foundation and NTU. The team of ten developers will present their research globally, starting in Singapore at the inaugural SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress.

Channel NewsAsia - New made-in-Singapore device to better predict heart failure -