Congenital heart defects (CHD) are structural abnormalities of the heart that are present at birth. They can range from mild conditions with minimal impact on health to complex defects requiring surgical intervention. Early diagnosis and appropriate medical care are crucial to managing congenital heart defects and improving long-term outcomes.

To date, the global prevalence of CHD is ∼9 per 1000 live births, with considerable geographical variation.

European Heart Journal

Current methods for early detection of congenital heart disease include prenatal ultrasound and fetal echocardiography, which can detect structural abnormalities before birth. In addition, advances in genetic testing have made it possible to identify certain genetic mutations associated with congenital heart defects, allowing early intervention and treatment.

Auscultation, the process of listening to the heart with a stethoscope, is a commonly used method of detecting certain congenital heart defects by identifying abnormal heart murmurs or sounds. Monitoring blood oxygen saturation, often using pulse oximetry, is another valuable tool for early detection, as it can reveal lower levels of oxygen in the blood, indicating potential heart abnormalities and the need for further evaluation.

While more serious heart defects are detected early, smaller defects, such as small ventricular septal defects or atrial septal defects, may not cause symptoms until later in life and are often discovered incidentally during routine check-ups or when other health problems are being investigated.

The aim is to detect most defects, whether severe or not, in the first few days after birth in hospital. Major defects trigger immediate investigation, whereas routine screening for minor defects would require more time and special skills.

However, time is of the essence because the earlier a defect is detected, the easier it is to repair. This is particularly true for septal defects, which can be detected by auscultation.

HS Analysis creates an AI-assisted stethoscope that can quickly identify the need for further, more thorough examination.

AI Detects Defects

An electronic stethoscope, enhanced with artificial intelligence (AI), can help detect congenital heart defects in a fascinating way. When the stethoscope is placed on a person’s chest, it captures the sounds produced by their heart. These sounds are then analyzed by AI algorithms that have been trained to recognize patterns associated with specific heart abnormalities.

The AI algorithms listen for irregularities, such as abnormal heart murmurs or sounds, that could indicate the presence of a congenital heart defect. By comparing the captured heart sounds to a vast database of known heart conditions, the AI can provide valuable insights and alert healthcare professionals if there is a potential issue.

Madhero88 – Own work Reference netter image, CC BY-SA 3.0

This technology empowers doctors to make more accurate diagnoses, even in the absence of obvious symptoms, enabling early intervention and appropriate treatment. It’s like having a highly trained expert listening to the heart, helping identify potential heart defects that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

By harnessing the power of AI, electronic stethoscopes are transforming the way we detect congenital heart defects, providing a non-invasive, accessible, and efficient method for early detection and improved patient care.