Asthma: New at-home stethoscope may help monitor young children

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
A child using an asthma inhaler lays on the floorShare on Pinterest
Experts say it can be difficult for parents to monitor asthma in young children. Westend61/Getty Images
  • Asthma is common in young children.
  • Diagnosing asthma exacerbations in those under 5 years is challenging.
  • A recent study looked at an artificial intelligence designed stethoscope that combines auditory data with physical measurements.
  • The researchers concluded that the new tool successfully detects exacerbations in children under 5.

In the United States, around 1 in 12 people have asthma — that’s around 27 million people.

Of these, about 4.5 million are under 18, making asthma the most common chronic disease in children.

Although asthma is more prevalent in children aged 5 to 18 than in children under 5, those under 5 have a higher risk of asthma attacks, emergency department visits, and hospitalization.

Reducing these risks relies on predicting exacerbations or catching them early. This makes accurate and careful monitoring vital.

However, this can be challenging in younger children, although a new stethoscope that utilizes artificial intelligence may make this task easier.

The authors said they hope that this tool will help clinicians and parents more accurately monitor childhood asthma. With increased interest in patient-specific treatment and the use of telemedicine, the authors wrote:

“AI-aided stethoscopes are a particularly useful tool that can be applied to optimize and improve patient-doctor collaboration using telemedicine solutions.”

While Kaplan believes the premise of this study is interesting, he adds a note of caution: “This technology cannot be trusted by itself, as some asthmatics get breathless, with worsening obstruction and do not wheeze.”

“With the shortage of physicians worldwide,” he continued, “this tool might be useful, but I am certain that cost will be a huge barrier. The other barrier will be working out a process for dealing with a positive ‘screen.’”

Foong agrees with the concerns regarding accessibility.

“I think the overall usefulness of this technology would also depend on the accessibility and affordability of these devices for use in families experiencing asthma,” she explained.

“Studies have shown that asthma disproportionately affects minority and low-income children and unless development of these technology consider the needs of the users they may only be useful to those that have access,” she added.

Overall, though, Foong said she is excited about the prospect of using artificial intelligence.

“Research using AI is… uncovering novel findings to help understand the disease further,” she said. “My view is that using AI for asthma predictive models to determine who would develop asthma or have severe symptoms that would benefit from certain therapies is the most promising.”

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