London: Scientists have developed what they claim is an "electronic nose" which can "smell" heart failure.

A team at the University Hospital Jena in Germany says the "electronic nose" system consists of an array of three thick-film metal oxide based gas sensors with heater elements. Each of the sensors had a slightly different sensitivity to various odorant molecular types.

"The early detection of chronic heart failure (CHF) through periodical screening facilitates early treatment application," said Vasileios Kechagias, who led a team at the University Hospital Jena in Germany.

Heart failure is a common, costly, disabling and potentially deadly condition. It's linked to significantly reduced physical and mental health, resulting in a markedly decreased quality of life. Although some people survive many years, progressive disease is associated with an overall increased mortality and morbidity.

"We conducted a daily screening of patients with different degrees of heart failure. For the study, eligible patients were enrolled after informed consent, and the collected data was anonymous," Kechagias said.

In particular, the relevant laboratory parameters for heart failure (minerals, creatinine, blood gas analysis) were collected and a clinical assessment of heart failure based on the available parameters (clinical history, laboratory, echocardiography, and exercise stress test) was performed.

The researchers screened a total of 250 patients and included 126 in the study in which testing was optimized through a standardized skin preparation.

The assignment of patients to the different groups (no heart failure vs moderate heart failure vs. decompensated heart failure) was performed by physicians blinded for the measured values through the electronic nose.

Two groups were formed with CHF patients: one with decompensated (n=27) heart failure and one with compensated (n=25) heart failure.

For the clinical manifestation of the decompensated heart failure, the researchers evaluated the marked limitation of any activity where the patient is comfortable only at rest (Class III) or the state in which any physical activity brings on discomfort and symptoms occur at rest (Class IV).

Furthermore, they screened a control group of patients without heart failure symptoms (n=28). Then the measurement with the "electronic nose" randomly took place, from 10 cycles of 3 minutes each and a subsequent offline data analysis.

In all patients, data acquisition was possible.

(Agencies)