News, NHS trust

Electrocardiographic imaging vest developed by UCL and Royal Free researchers supports 800 patients

Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust has shared insight into an electrocardiographic imaging (ECGI) vest developed by their researchers alongside a research team from University College London, which sees electrical data from 256 sensors combined with MRI images to generate 3D digital models of the heart and its electrical activity.

The Royal Free notes that previously, detailed mapping of electrical activity within the heart was “rare” as it relied on a catheter inserted inside the heart cavity or use of single-use devices that are “costly and time-consuming to set up, and involve radiation”. The ECGI vest uses dry electrodes which can be washed between uses, with the Royal Free calling it “re-usable and time efficient, with only five minutes needed per patient”.

An assessment of the vest’s feasibility on 77 patients has been published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance “found it to be reliable and durable,” the Royal Free reports, adding that it has since been used on 800 patients.

Dr Gaby Captur from the research and development team shared her belief that the vest could provide a “quick and cost-effective screening tool”, with the “rich electrical information” provided supporting identification of people’s risk with regards to experiencing life-threatening heart rhythms in the future.

In addition, she said, the vest could be used to assess the impact of drugs, along with new cardiac devices and lifestyle interventions on heart health.

Co-developer Dr Matthew Webber from the UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science adds: “Cardiac MRI, the gold standard in heart imaging, shows us the health of the heart muscle tissue, including where dead muscle cells might be. In-depth electrocardiographic imaging can help us correlate these features with their consequences – the impact they may be having on the heart’s electrical system. It adds a missing part of the puzzle.”

Last year, we interviewed previous chief innovation officer at the Royal Free, James Davis. James shared some of the projects he worked on in his time at the trust and discussed the trust’s “desire to consume technology, to use it, to draw on it, to leverage the best that it has to offer.” Read the interview in full here.

In December, we reported on the introduction of 3D heart replicas at Leeds Teaching Hospitals to support surgical interventions.