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A fable, twice a day

Patient Horst S. in conversation with study director PD Dr Felix Hohendanner. | © Maier/DHZC

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Researchers at Deutsches Herzzentrum der Charité led by study director and DZHK scientist PD Dr Felix Hohendanner, in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic in the USA, are conducting a new study to find out how patients with advanced heart failure can be monitored telemedically via the sound of their voice. Artificial intelligence from a Berlin start-up is being used for this.

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"Once the north wind and the sun were arguing about which of them was the stronger, when a traveller, wrapped in a warm cloak, came along the path..." So begins a tale attributed to the ancient Greek poet Aesop. Horst S. from Berlin says it out loud into a microphone twice a day. Not because he is a fan of ancient fables, however - but because the sound of his voice is supposed to tell his doctors how his heart is doing.

The 88-year-old pensioner suffers from severe heart failure and is one of the first participants in a study that aims to provide scientists with new insights into the application and effectiveness of voice analysis using artificial intelligence in the treatment of chronic heart failure. It is being conducted at the German Heart Centre of the Charité and the US Mayo Clinic under the title: "AI-Based Voice Analysis for Monitoring Patients Hospitalised with Acute Decompensated Heart Failure", or "VAMP-HF" for short

Artificial intelligence for close monitoring of heart disease

In the first phase of the study, 25 patients suffering from advanced heart failure with "hydropic decompensation" will be included in each of the cardiology wards: Due to the severely reduced pumping function of the heart, not enough fluid can be transported from the tissue to the excretory organs, leading to fluid accumulation in the body and, as a result, to a further, often life-threatening deterioration in the general condition of the affected patients - particularly due to water in the lungs.

In addition to medication to strengthen the heart, the treatment of hydropic decompensation also includes diuretics, i.e. medication to improve the excretion of fluid. Cardiologists must now closely monitor the effectiveness of the therapy and adjust it as quickly as possible if the desired results are not achieved.

The human voice could play an important role "as an early warning system" in the future, says PD Dr Felix Hohendanner, senior physician at Charité's German Heart Centre and clinical director of the VAMP-HF study, because: "More fluid in the body leads to a change in the propagation of sound waves and thus also to a change in the voice, which is usually not audible to the human ear but can still be measured."

Artificial intelligence predicts treatment success

Software from the Berlin start-up Noah Labs, which specialises in the development and application of artificial intelligence (AI) in the voice-based diagnosis of heart disease and has entered into a strategic partnership with the German Heart Institute Berlin Foundation, is being used.

The Noah Labs AI analyses hundreds of parameters in the test subjects' voice samples and detects even the smallest changes. By comparing this with the amount of fluid excreted by the heart failure patients, the AI now "learns" to predict the effectiveness of the treatment - so that doctors can take countermeasures even before symptoms occur.

Uncomplicated and safe to perform

In comparison to some other measurement methods, voice sampling has many advantages when carried out independently at home, says Felix Hohendanner: "It is painless, quick and uncomplicated, has hardly any sources of error and requires no technical aids other than a recording device such as a smartphone." In future, voice samples will even be transmitted with a simple phone call.In addition, the method of AI-based telemedical voice evaluation can also be used for various other cardiovascular diseases, says the cardiologist: "We are only at the beginning of a promising development here.“


Study: "AI-Based Voice Analysis for Monitoring Patients Hospitalised with Acute Decompensated Heart Failure"

Scientific contact
: PD Dr Felix Hohendanner, Senior Physician at the Cardiology Department, DHZC

Source: Press release DHZC (in German only)