Press Release 93/2008

Avoiding Strokes

KIT Scientist Develops Method for the Reliable Diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation
Detecting atrial fibrillation in due time, although nothing is visible in the ECG.
Photo by: fotalia/private

Dr. Nicole Kikillus from the KIT Institute of Biomedical Technology has developed a software for the reliable detection of atrial fibrillation and the rapid and simple screening of risk patients. For patients, atrial fibrillation means a stroke risk increased by a factor of up to seven. This risk may be reduced by up to 70% by the application of medicine, provided that the diagnosis of atrial fibrillation is made in due time.

So far, this diagnosis has been very difficult, because atrial fibrillation often does not cause any symptoms or occurs in a paroxysmal manner. This clinically most important cardiac arrhythmia was detected only, if it occurred during examination, i.e. while recording an ECG.

In Germany alone, about 800 000 people suffer from this widespread disease. In view of the demographic development, experts expect the number of patients with atrial fibrillation to double in the next thirty years.

Now, engineer Dr. Nicole Kikillus from the KIT Institute of Biomedical Technology has developed an examination method, by means of which patients with atrial fibrillation can be detected reliably, even if no atrial fibrillation occurs during the examination. For this purpose, the “evidensa” software developed by Kikillus analyzes a single-channel ECG (electrocardiogram) of about 45 minutes on the PC. The software uses a novel algorithm that is based on heat rate variability parameters. From the single-channel ECG, a total of 25 features can be determined from the time, frequency, and non-linear time ranges and classified subsequently. The result is either “patient with atrial fibrillation yes” or “patient with atrial fibrillation no”.

“An early diagnosis of patients with atrial fibrillation allows for a therapy and, hence, for a reduction of the stroke risk by up to 70%”, explains the scientist. “The method can be applied rapidly and simply and is suited well for broad screening examinations.”

Kikillus expects that the software will reach maturity in about 2 years’ time. Until then, the results will have to be refined and improved with the help of additional data sets. First negotiations with cooperation partners have already taken place. It is the objective to equip hospitals as well as doctors’ practises with the “evidensa” software. Dr. Nicole Kikillus: “Immediately after analyzing the ECG, the software makes its decision with a success probability of 96%: “Patient with atrial fibrillation yes” or “Patient with atrial fibrillation no”.

This invention documented by the PhD thesis of Kikillus also convinced juries. Recently, her work was awarded the “Südwestmetall-Förderpreis 2008” by the Association of Metal and Electric Industries in Baden-Württemberg. A short time later, she was awarded the “Fresenius Inventor’s Award 2008” at the Medica fair in Düsseldorf.

The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is the merger of the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe, member of the Helmholtz Association, and the Universität Karlsruhe. This merger will give rise to an institution of internationally excellent research and teaching in natural and engineering sciences. In total, the KIT has 8000 employees and an annual budget of 700 million Euros. The KIT focuses on the knowledge triangle of research – teaching – innovation.

The Karlsruhe institution is a leading European energy research center and plays a visible role in nanosciences worldwide. KIT sets new standards in teaching and promotion of young scientists and attracts top scientists from all over the world. Moreover, KIT is a leading cooperation partner of industry.

mjo, lg, December 10, 2008


Monika Landgraf
Head of Corporate Communications, Chief Press Officer
Phone: +49 721 608-41150
Fax: +49 721 608-43658
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Contact for this press release:

Monika Landgraf
Tel.: +49 721 608-8126
Fax: +49 721 608-3658
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