The toilet seat that could save millions of lives: New gadget can detect early signs of heart failure by picking up blood pressure, oxygen levels and heart rate
- The gadget fits over the top of a normal toilet seat and measures heartbeat
- It can also sense blood pressure and levels of oxygen in the blood
- Developers said it could save the lives of potential heart disease victims
- The technology could spot signs of heart trouble before symptoms are noticed
Scientists have invented a toilet seat which could detect signs of heart failure before symptoms appear.
The gadget fits over the top of a normal seat and contains sensors which can measure the user’s heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels through their legs.
Its inventors claim the product could save millions of lives and make it easier to monitor at-risk patients with accurate, real-time information.
Currently costing £1,500 each, the toilet seats aren’t cheap but they could save hospitals money and improve people’s health, the researchers said.
The toilet seat, invented by scientists in New York, fits on top of a normal toilet seat and incorporates sensors to pick up on the user’s heart rate and blood pressure
The inventors said the gadget offers an easy way to monitor patients at risk of heart failure when they’re at home, potentially saving lives by spotting symptoms early on
Inventors at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York have designed and produced the seat, which they hope will cut hospital admission rates.
Around a quarter of heart failure patients are readmitted to hospital within 30 days of discharge, the researchers said, while 45 per cent are taken back within six weeks.
By monitoring the patients at home – and not requiring them to do anything other than what comes naturally – medics may be able to keep a closer eye on them.
This also reduces the likelihood of mistakes which would otherwise happen if people were doing their own monitoring using other devices.
And the data from the seat, which is WiFi enabled, can be transmitted automatically to doctors if necessary, so they can decide whether someone needs treatment.
‘This system has the potential to address many of the challenges with in-home monitoring,’ the inventors wrote in a report in the journal JMIR mHealth.
They said the seat could overcome problems with convincing people to take reliable measurements themselves, because it would do it for them without any extra effort.
WHAT IS HEART FAILURE?
Heart failure means that the heart is unable to pump blood around the body properly. It usually occurs because the heart has become too weak or stiff.
Heart failure doesn’t mean your heart has stopped working – it just needs some support to help it work better. It can occur at any age, but is most common in older people.
Heart failure is a long-term condition that tends to get gradually worse over time. It can’t usually be cured, but the symptoms can often be controlled for many years.
The main symptoms of heart failure are:
- breathlessness after activity or at rest
- feeling tired most of the time and finding exercise exhausting
- swollen ankles and legs
Some people also experience other symptoms, such as a persistent cough, a fast heart rate, and dizziness.
Symptoms can develop quickly (acute heart failure) or gradually over weeks or months (chronic heart failure).
See your GP if you experience persistent or gradually worsening symptoms of heart failure.
They added: ‘Such a device may enable new approaches and capabilities in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease, including but not limited to those with heart failure.’
‘If successful,’ the report said, ‘this strategy has the potential to reduce the burden of heart failure and cardiovascular disease on the health care industry as well as improve the quality of life for patients.’
The developers said the seat would make it easier to be proactive about monitoring patients’ care, by monitoring them before symptoms appear, instead of being reactive, and only being able to help when someone is already ill.
And the legs could be a good location for this monitoring to take place because the aorta – the body’s largest artery – runs into the thighs.
Heart failure is a serious condition in which the heart cannot pump blood properly around the body, often because it is too weak or stiff.
The toilet seat could look for signs of this, its inventors say, by noticing when the oxygen volume in blood is low, when blood pressure is high, and when smaller amounts of blood are being pumped with each action.
Heart failure isn’t curable but it is treatable. If left untreated it can cause breathlessness, tiredness and dizziness.
The condition increases the risk of kidney and liver damage or further damage to the heart.
A trial of the toilet seats, made by the firm Heart Health Intelligence, will be conducted on 150 discharged heart patients in the US.
They are battery-powered, waterproof, wireless and do not require any setting up or programming by the patient.