Improving the diagnosis of heart valve disease

Research into improving ultrasound machines to provide more accurate diagnosis on heart valve replacement has been awarded $50,000 in Seed Funding from the Monash Institute of Medical Engineering.

Monash University Research Lead, Dr Andrew Stephens, from the Faculty of Engineering along with Clinical Leads, Dr Dion Stub and Dr Michael Seman from the Department of Cardiology at Alfred Health, will lead a team to develop a method to allow patients to receive heart valves when needed, resulting in better patient outcomes.

The human heart contains four valves which ensure forward flow when beating. Valvular diseases include any dysfunction of those heart valves and represents a large portion of prevalent global heart diseases. Of those valvular diseases, aortic stenosis (narrowing of the aortic valve) and mitral regurgitation (back-flow through the mitral valve) are the first and second most common valvular diseases in developed countries.

“The incidence of aortic stenosis and mitral regurgitation increases considerably with age, with severe aortic stenosis occurring in up to 5 per cent of adults over 65 and up to 10 per cent in adults over 80,” said Dr Stephens.

“Doctors currently use ultrasound to assess the severity of aortic stenosis to determine who needs a valve replacement, however as this method cannot measure the presence of mitral regurgitation this often results in patients being underdiagnosed and not receiving replacement valves when needed,” said Dr Stephens.

This project aims to improve ultrasound machines to automatically detect the presence of mitral regurgitation and to update the diagnosis of aortic stenosis accordingly.

“There are currently no solutions to meet this clinical need and no (publicly announced) technologies looming on the horizon. The targeted outcome of this project is to develop an algorithm-based method of indexing aortic stenosis with mitral regurgitation to allow for adequate diagnosis, severity grading and in-turn, timely intervention for patients. This, in turn, will result in better patient survival and recovery,” said Dr Stephens.

“Our research will provide an essential and complete solution to diagnosing aortic stenosis with associated mitral regurgitation and will be achieved by combining clinical expertise of cardiologists who have an intricate understanding of the physiology, chemistry and haemodynamics, with the engineering expertise we have here at Monash University,” said Dr Stephens.

For more on this project, watch the video below or contact Dr Andrew Stephens on or visit


MIME Seed Funding supports partnerships with Engineering and/or IT/digital health researchers to discover new medical solutions including technologies, devices and digital health. For more information visit