For this purpose, sound recordings of Covid-19-positive persons in clinical treatment are needed. The Austrian Science Fund (FWF) is currently reviewing an application for urgent funding of a SARS-CoV-2 call.
Acoustic abnormalities in the lungs are often difficult to distinguish from normal lung sounds and other body sounds. The short-duration sounds have a relatively low amplitude and are in the low frequency range, where the human ear has limited sensitivity and is susceptible to sonic artifacts. Listening to the lungs with a stethoscope, the traditional way, has disadvantages. The assessment of lung sounds is subjective and varies according to the experience of the medical staff. Continuous monitoring is not possible with stethoscopes – whether real or digital.
The prototype developed at TU Graz, on the other hand, allows high-quality recordings of lung sounds, on the basis of which lung diseases and pathological lung conditions can be assessed more objectively. This enables clearer examination results and thus better treatments. Pernkopf explains the technology behind it: "The lung sound recording system (LSRS) is multi-channel and equipped with very powerful micro-electromechanical microphones (MEMS). The recording of lung sounds is non-invasive; the patient simply lies on the device in the supine position."
The LSRS records lung sounds at high quality which are further exploited for computer-aided automatic lung sound analysis. This requires a lot of data from which the system can learn. A clinical study is to help obtain correspondingly large data sets of healthy and pathological lung recordings. "Our primary focus is on the pulmonary sounds associated with pneumonia, bronchitis, pleurisy, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and systolic heart failure," says Pernkopf and continues: "For this we need lung sound recordings of people of all genders, different age groups and with different body mass indexes." A clinical study in collaboration with the Medical and Pharmaceutical University in Ho Chi Min City is currently being prepared for data collection. A preliminary study on sounds associated with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis has already been conducted in cooperation with the Medical University of Graz (Freyja Smolle-Jüttner, Clinical Department of Thoracic and Hyperbaric Surgery and Horst Olschewski, Clinical Department of Pulmonology).
Originally, the system was developed with a view to geographical areas with no access to expensive diagnostic procedures such as MR or CT. "But even in countries with basically well-equipped clinical environments like ours, the system can be a great help: namely in pre-screening. Taking the current Covid 19 pandemic as an example, this could mean that lung sounds are also analyzed in the course of mass testing. "It is a question of the maturity of the entire system and the availability of reference data. If both are given, our system could be adapted to several lung diseases," says Pernkopf, who emphasizes at the same time: “Ideally, this will be done in cooperation with interdisciplinary research groups from the fields of medicine and technology whose work is going in a similar direction. We are grateful for additional input and open for possible cooperation.
MEDICA-tradefair.com; Source: TU Graz | Institute of Signal Processing and Speech Communication