Childhood Respiratory Disorders

Automate cough analysis technology incorporated in a smartphone app could help to diagnose childhood respiratory disorders, according to a study published in the open access journal Respiratory Research. Researchers at Curtin University and The University of Queensland, Australia, showed that a smartphone app had high accuracy (between 81% and 97%) in diagnosing asthma, croup, pneumonia, lower respiratory tract disease and bronchiolitis.

The respiratory disorders

The differential diagnosis of respiratory disorders can be challenging even for experience clinicians; so with access to diagnostic support services. Respiratory diagnosis may require multiple assessment modalities including clinical and auscultatory examinations, medical imaging, bronchodilator response testing, spirometry and body fluid analyses. The accurate identification of airway sounds during auscultation is dependent on clinical training and experience.

Dr. Paul Porter, corresponding author of the study, said: It can be difficult to differentiate between respiratory disorders in children, even for experience doctors. This study demonstrates how new technology; so mathematical concepts, machine learning and clinical medicine; which can be successfully combine to produce completely new diagnostic tests utilising the expertise of several disciplines.

To develop the app, the authors use similar technology to that use in speech recognition; which they train to recognise features of coughs which are characteristic of five different respiratory diseases. The researchers then use the app to categorise the coughs of 585 children between ages 29 days to 12 years who were being care for at two hospitals in Western Australia.

Tele health consultations

The authors note that the technology develop for this study is able to provide a diagnosis without the need for clinical examination by a doctor in person, addressing a major limiting feature of existing tele health consultations; which are use to provide clinical services remotely. Removing the need for a clinical examination may allow target treatments to begin sooner.

Dr. Porter said: “As the tool does not rely on clinical investigations; so it can be use by health care providers of all levels of training and expertise. However, they would advise that where possible the tool be use in conjunction with a clinician to maximise the clinical accuracy.

The technology can be installed onto ubiquitous devices (smartphones); so agrees with existing standard-of-care clinical diagnosis and provides a point-of-care diagnosis; so without the need for clinical examination, supplemental investigations, or broncho dilator testing. It can be use as a diagnostic aid for childhood respiratory disorders. Its use in different settings such as hospitals, ambulatory care; so community and telehealth deserves evaluation. Further work will assist in delineating its utility in these areas.