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Stanford University School of Medicine

New Stanford Medicine iPhone app launched to study peripheral artery disease

Stanford researchers have launched a new iPhone app called VascTrac to collect data about patients with peripheral artery disease using Apple’s ResearchKit, an open source framework that allows iPhone users to easily join clinical research studies.

Once participants consent to join the study after downloading the app in the iTunes store, their daily activity will be automatically measured when they carry their iPhones. The app sends the data to the researchers and also provides a convenient way for patients with the disease to keep track of their own activity levels.

The ultimate goal of the study is to discover better ways to treat patients with the disease, which I described in a news release:

Peripheral artery disease, which affects about 12 million people in the United States, is a common circulatory problem caused by a build-up of plaque in the peripheral arteries, most commonly in the legs. Symptoms include cramping and pain while walking or climbing stars. Treatment is directed at reducing leg pain — which restricts activity — and reducing risks of heart attack and stroke from clogged arteries.

One of the aims of the study is to find a better way of tracking patients' activity after they have certain vascular procedures common to PAD patients such as stents and balloons implanted to open clogged arteries and relieve pain in the legs. As, Oliver Aalami, MD, lead investigator of the study, explains in our release:

Endovascular procedures such as balloons or stents in the iliac or femoral arteries are minimally invasive procedures that allow patients to go home the same day, and they work well, but are not that durable. The issue is that within a year or two 60 percent of them fail because patients develop scar tissue. We're not perfect at predicting who is going to have problems, and catching them early... that would be the Holy Grail. It’s much easier to fix earlier.

Currently, physicians schedule patients for follow-up visits at three, six and nine-month intervals after these procedures. But they don’t know what might be happening with their patients between visits. If, say, a tracking device could alert a doctor that a patient is having recurring symptoms, indicated by frequent stopping while walking due to pain, they could catch the problem earlier. "That could be a game changer," Neil Gandhi, a Stanford medical student and co-investigator of the study, said. "It could change the way physicians practice. By using personalized tracking, patients could get a notification to come in for an ultrasound when their activity drops suddenly. This could ultimately improve care."

Previously: Stanford researchers use data mining to show safety of peripheral artery disease treatment, A look at using smartphone apps for patient-centered research and Genetic research now integrated into Stanford's MyHeart Counts app
Photo courtesy of VascTrac

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