The end of daily finger prick tests for diabetics? AI heart monitor ‘can detect dangerously low blood sugar levels’
- Scientists used artificial intelligence to detect low blood sugar levels
- Patients wore electrocardiogram (ECG) monitors 24 hours a day for two weeks
- Researchers have trained a computer system to recognize normal and low sugar levels
Diabetics no longer need to use finger prick tests to check their blood sugar – they could rely on a portable heart monitor instead.
Researchers discovered that the AI-based sensor can detect low blood sugar levels, known as hypoglycaemia, by looking at a patient’s heartbeat.
Low blood sugar levels – which can be dangerous if not treated quickly – can increase heart rate and blood pressure, cause heart palpitations and affect the electrical activity of the organ.
Scientists used electrocardiogram data from patients to train a computer system to recognize normal readings, as well as when their sugar levels dropped.
University of Warwick, which tested the gadget on eight patients, claims that the monitor was successful and could ‘replace’ finger prick tests.
Hypoglycaemia can affect both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes patients. Left untreated it can lead to coma and seizures.
For years, diabetics have had to test their blood sugar, usually using a pin-prick blood test on their finger, and inject insulin if their sugar is too high.
Diabetics no longer need to use finger prick tests to check their blood sugar after researchers discover that low levels can be detected by a portable heart monitor
Portable monitors, such as the Theresa May Freestyle Libre system, do not measure blood sugar levels.
Instead, they measure the amount of sugar in fluid under the skin, known as interstital fluid.
Because interstitial measurements are a few minutes behind blood glucose levels, finger prick testing is still necessary, even for patients using monitors.
As a result, the new study with portable heart monitors could make patients’ lives easier.
There are reportedly more than four million patients in the UK with diabetes, as well as 23 million in the US.
The researchers at the University of Warwick investigated how ECG values changed during a hypoglycaemic event, when the blood sugar level drops below four millimoles per liter.
They then used the artificial intelligence system to recognize low levels compared to normal measurements.
The researchers added that the use of the algorithm had overcome previous failed attempts to use ECGs to detect hypoglycaemia.
The study followed eight participants who wore ECG monitors 24 hours a day, 24 hours a day for two weeks.
None of the participants was diabetes, but the researchers said the principle was still applied.
Although the study, published in the scientific journal Journal, was a pilot and required larger trials, the concept has been proven to work.
The researchers said, “The technology works with a reliability of 82 percent and can replace the need for invasive finger prick testing with a needle, which can be especially useful for pediatric patients.”
The newspaper co-author, Leandro Pecchia, said: ‘Finger pricks are never pleasant, especially for children.
“Our innovation used artificial intelligence to automatically detect hypoglycaemia via a few ECG beats.
“This is relevant because ECG can be detected under any circumstance, including sleep.”
‘Our approach made personalized coordination of detection algorithms possible and clinicians can adjust the therapy to every person.
“Clearly more clinical research is needed to confirm these results in wider populations.”
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR DIABETES PATIENTS TO MEASURE THEIR GLUCOSE LEVELS?
Diabetes is a serious lifelong disorder that occurs when the amount of sugar in the blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly.
Patients should check their glucose levels regularly to prevent them from developing potentially fatal complications.
Type 1 diabetes patients are often recommended to test their blood sugar at least four times a day. For type 2 patients, doctors recommend testing twice a day.
Blood glucose levels should be between the ranges of 3.5 – 5.5 mmol / L before meals and less than 8 mmol / L two hours after meals.
Diabetic patients should check their glucose levels regularly to prevent them from developing potentially fatal complications
hypoglycaemia (when the blood sugar level falls below 4 mmol / L) this can sometimes lead to patients getting into comas in severe cases.
However, most of the time it can be treated by eating or drinking 15-20 g of fast-acting carbohydrates, such as 200 ml of Lucozade Energy Original.
Sufferers can tell that they have hypoglycaemia when they suddenly feel tired, have trouble concentrating or feel dizzy.
Type 1 diabetes patients are more likely to have hypoglycaemia because of the medicines they take, including insulin.
hyperglycemia (if the blood sugar level is higher than 11.0 mmol / L two hours after a meal) this can also have life-threatening complications.
It happens when the body either has too little insulin, seen with type 1, or is unable to use the supply properly, usually with type 2.
In the short term, it can lead to conditions such as ketoacidosis – which releases ketones into the body.
If left untreated, hyperglycaemia can lead to long-term complications, such as impotence and limb amputations.
Regular exercise can help to lower blood sugar levels over time, and following a healthy diet and proper meal planning can also prevent dangerous spikes.