A Critical Look at the Acoustic CardioGraph

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

The Acoustic CardioGraph (ACG), marketed by the Acoustic CardioGraph Company of San Diego, alifornia, is used by misguided practitioners (mostly chiropractors and naturopaths) to determine what supplements to sell to their patients. It said to be a modern (transistorized) version of the Endocardiograph, a device developed by Royal S. Lee in 1937 [1]. Lee (1895-1967), a nonpracticing dentist, founded and operated the Wisconsin-based Vitamin Products Company which sold food supplements, and the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, which distributed literature on nutrition and health. The company, still family owned and operated, is now called Standard Process, Inc.

Lee's Endocardiograph was an electrical amplifying and recording stethoscope used to "diagnose" disease and prescribe Lee's vitamin preparations as treatment. Literature describing the use of the device also claimed that practitioners could use it to "detect and analyze" enlargement of the heart, heart muscle fatigue, and diseases caused by nutritional deficiencies (which Lee alleged to include virtually all diseases). In 1963, the FDA initiated a seizure of three Endocardiographs from the Vitamin Products Company of Maryland (a distributor) along with promotional literature shipped by Lee's organizations. The Government charged that the device's labeling contained statements that falsely represented it as effective in detecting vitamin deficiencies, high blood pressure, and many other disease conditions [1]. In a speech on the day after the seizure took place, Kenneth Milstead, Deputy Director of the FDA Bureau of Enforcement, described Lee as "probably the largest publisher of unreliable and false nutritional information in the world." [1]

Note: Acoustic cardiography is a general term that describes the use of devices to depict heart sounds. Acoustic cardiography (also called phonocardiography) has legitimate medical uses [2,3], but that has nothing to do with the device discussed in this article.

Current Claims

The Acoustic CardioGraph Company's Web site, which offers its device for $$6,600 plus shipping, claims the following "benefits":

One practitioner states:

The ACG records the vibrations of the heart as the blood moves through the various chambers, valves, and large vessels, hence the name Acoustic CardioGraph. The ACG records these vibrations at four locations of the heart and provides a "graph signature." While the opening and closing of the heart valves contributes to the graph, so does the contraction and strength of the heart muscle. As a result a dynamic picture is presented of the heart in motion. If the heart is efficient and without stress, the graph is smooth and clear. If the heart is inefficient, there are definite patterns associated each type of contributing dysfunction [5].

Another practitioner explains:

The "graph signature" is a reflection of the heart sounds. The heart sounds are a reflection of the function of the heart. The function of the heart is affected by many of our systems, i.e., adrenal, liver & gallbladder, circulatory and kidney function, etc. Nutrition, including supplements, minerals, vitamins, essential fatty acids (EFAs) are among the factors that influence heart function.

Each system's dysfunction and nutritional deficiency has a characteristic graph signature. By making use of the ACG's inordinate accuracy, we can easily detect such dysfunctions and deficiencies thereby helping us make appropriate recommendations and monitor a patient or client's progress throughout care [6].

The Simple Truth

Heart sounds are useful for evaluating disturbances of heart rhythm, the status of the heart valves, and several other types of cardiac problems. However, these problems are outside the legitimate scope of chiropractic or naturopathy and should be assessed with ultrasound testing and other standard medical procedures. There is no scientific evidence or logical reason to believe that heart sounds reflect organ health throughout the body or can be used to assess the body's nutritional state. I advise staying away from any practitioner who uses the Acoustic CardioGraph device for that purpose.

References

  1. Milstead KL. Quackery in the medical device field. Presentation at the Second National Conference on Quackery, Chicago, Oct 25, 1963.
  2. Erne P. Beyond auscultation: Acoustic cardiography in the diagnosis and assessment of cardiac disease. Swiss Medicine Weekly 138:438-452, 2008.
  3. wen YN and others. Beyond auscultation: Acoustic cardiography in clinical practice. International Journal of Cardiology 172:548-560, 2014.
  4. The Acoustic CardioGraph. Acoustic CardioGraph Company Web site, accessed Feb 5, 2008.
  5. ACG - Nutritional cardiograph. drkaslow.com Web site, accessed March 26, 2007 and April 27, 2014.
  6. Cohen D. Acoustic CardioGraph (ACG). Web site of David Cohen, ND, PhD, MH, CNC, accessed April 27, 2014.

This article was revised on April 27, 2014.

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