‘Electronic nose’ sniffs out heart failure


A new “electronic nose” is being developed to be used in routine screenings to “smell” out chronic heart failure (CHF).

The project’s results demonstrated that the technology is able to diagnose heart failure non-invasively with almost 90% accuracy.

Vasileios Kechagias, investigator of the study at University Hospital Jena, in Germany, said: “The early detection of CHF through periodical screening facilitates early treatment application”.

The system consists of three thick-film metal oxide-based gas sensors with heater elements, with each sensor tailored to react with different odorant molecular types. Reactions between the sensor and molecules are caused by oxygen on the heated sensor surface, altering the free charge carrier concentrations, which change conductivity in the metal oxide layer.

During the trial, the electronic nose assigned 126 patients to one of three groups: no heart failure, compensated and decompensated, with 90% accuracy. Compensated heart failure reacts to treatment, whereas the decompensated version of the condition has no treatment and can cause such conditions as infections, arrhythmias and electrolyte disturbances.

The sensor is simply placed on the arm much like a blood pressure monitor for three minutes at a time and then analyses for heart failure markers.

Heart failure is a common, costly and potentially deadly condition. Approximate 2% of adults suffer from the condition in developed countries, and increases to 6% in adults over the age of 65.

Scientists say more research is required, but ultimately hope to create a rapid, minimally invasive method to screen, diagnose and monitor compensated heart failure.