Heart patients wearing portable monitoring devices usually have to put up with unsightly wires held in place with sticky tape, and lug around a bulky box weighing 500g.

But such monitors could soon be history when a designed-in-Singapore device, half the size of a credit card and weighing all of 26g, is commercialised.

The Spyder, as it has been called, was put through its paces recently by 20 heart patients undergoing cardiac rehabilitation at Singapore General Hospital's National Heart Centre - and has been given the thumbs-up.

This wireless electrocardiography (ECG) device measures the electrical activity of the patient's heart, then transmits this information via Bluetooth technology to a cellphone, which sends the data to a server.

Doctors can access the information through a secure website.

Among the 20 patients who tried out the Spyder during their hour-long supervised exercise session was church counsellor Clara Wong, 57, who wore the device on her chest as she walked on the treadmill and lifted dumbbells.

She said: 'It's very easy to do the exercises with this stuck to my chest. I don't even feel it. With the older device, the wires sometimes fell off, and I had to have a bag for it while running.'

Dr Tan Swee Yaw, a cardiology consultant at the heart centre, said convenience not only affects a patient's comfort, but is also a big factor in influencing whether patients continue using the device after they leave the hospital.

'Sometimes, patients find the device so much of a problem to set up that they don't want to use it. Some of the current devices, for example, have to be fitted by a doctor and stuck on for 24 hours, so the patients cannot bathe,' he said.

The Spyder, on the other hand, can be fitted by a patient himself, and be removed just as easily.

Dr Philip Wong, the medical director for Web Biotechnology, said his company took two years to develop the Spyder and will launch it commercially by the end of the year.

He envisages that it will free patients enough for them to get on with their lives even while their hearts are being monitored.

He said trials are being arranged for patients who need longer-term monitoring using the device.

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.