Echocardiograms are a key part of cardiac function assessment, though the technique is restricted to the lab or clinic due to its requirement for trained technicians and difficulty involved with mass data collection. Making cardiac assessment more viable for space travel, researchers from Italy’s Fondazione Don Gnocchi, led by Marco Di Rienzo, developed an algorithm that automatically distills useful information from tiny chest vibrations, measured via an accelerometer worn during sleep.
The algorithm processed over 36,000 heartbeats from over 69 hours of data, identifying vibrations indicating the opening and closing of the wearer’s mitral and aortic valves. This information, alongside concurrent ECG recordings, can be used to calculate indices of heart performance.
Di Rienzo’s team found that chest vibrations were more accurately measured in space. On earth, gravity and sleep movements sometimes distorted the recordings.
Poster image: Crew members collecting medical data during the Skylab missions between May 1973 and 1974. Image courtesy of NASA/MSFC.