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FDA approves first pocket-sized EKG machine

The government approved the first pocket-sized EKG machine, so small that it promises easier, faster heart measurements in ambulances, the emergency room - even a possible heart attack victim's bedroom. It's also the first hand-held computer-based medical device, part of a growing trend to miniaturize some of medicine's most important equipment.

Electrocardiograms, also called EKGs or ECGs, are recordings of the heart's electrical signals, used to diagnose heart attacks, irregular heartbeats and other cardiac problems.// The new PocketView ECG works just as well as full-size electrocardiograph machines, the Food and Drug Administration determined - but is the size of a handheld computer.

In fact, it's actually made from a Compaq hand-held personal digital assistant. Manufacturer MicroMedical Industries embedded that off-the-shelf PDA with miniaturized versions of the software and hardware that run full-size EKG machines. Twelve leads, the electrodes that stick to the chest and record electric currents during each heartbeat, plug into a wire that in turn plugs into the top of the device.

A doctor could view the readings right on the PDA screen. Or, if ambulance workers were recording the measurements, the PocketView ECG can transmit the results over wireless phones to a computer for a doctor to view. Or plug in a printer and the PocketView will spit out the electrocardiogram's traditional spike-covered paper printout.

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