A new technology enables doctors to tell from your face whether you are at risk of cardiac disease. Specifically, it uses cameras and scanners to monitor changes in your face’s skin color. Skin color changes in turn indicate uneven blood flow, a sign of atrial fibrillation.

This potentially life-saving technology was used in a pilot study by Rochester University in New York. It “holds the potential to identify and diagnose cardiac disease using contactless video monitoring,” said Dr. Jean-Philippe Couderc, who led the research.

“This is a very simple concept, but one that could enable more people with atrial fibrillation to get the care the care they need,” Couderc added. Atrial fibrillation is characterized by an irregular (at times rapid) heart rate resulting from poor blood flow in the body. Such erratic cardiac electrical activity happens when the lower and upper chambers of the heart are not beating in unison.

The disease can be easily diagnosed upon testing. However, it does not have obvious symptoms and thus often goes undetected. Figures show that approximately 30 percent of those who have atrial fibrillation are unaware of their condition.

Detecting atrial fibrillation is extremely important as it could lead to blood clots and stroke if it remains untreated. The pilot study, which involved 11 patients, suggests that camera technology can help reduce such risks. To confirm its potential applications, researchers are expanding their study with a larger population that includes people without atrial fibrillation.