FRIDAY, May 17 (HealthDay News) -- There are apps that turn your smartphone into a metal detector, a musical instrument and a GPS system, and now there's an app that may help doctors save your life if you're having a heart attack.
The app, which was designed by engineers and critical care physicians, helps doctors rapidly diagnose certain kinds of severe heart attacks, called STEMIs, before patients get to the hospital.
The app currently is in the experimental stage, but it has undergone field testing.
In a STEMI heart attack, which stands for ST segment elevated myocardial infarction, a clot completely blocks blood flow to the heart. About a quarter of a million people have STEMIs each year in the United States.
These kinds of heart attacks create a unique pattern of pulses when doctors hook up patients to an electrocardiogram, or EKG, machine, which measures the heart's electrical activity.
The problem is that doctors need to see the EKG reading, which is called a tracing, to properly diagnose the attack and quickly assemble the team of specialists that is needed to clear the clot.
There are proprietary systems that use EKG machines hooked up to modems to send images back to hospital computers, but those systems are expensive and not all hospitals and EMS systems can afford them.
As an alternative, paramedics can use their smartphones in the field to snap a picture of the tracing and send it to a doctor at the hospital via email.
But as anyone who has ever tried to email a picture from their phone knows, it's far from foolproof. Large, high-quality images -- the kind doctors need to see -- can take several minutes to send and receive.
To address the issue, Dr. David Burt, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Virginia, challenged a class of systems engineering students to develop an app that could shrink i
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