A large study suggests that Apple Vatch can detect a worrying irregular heartbeat at least sometimes – but experts say more work is needed to determine if the use of wearable technology to screen heart problems really helps.
More than 419,000 Apple Vatch users have applied for an unusual study, making it the largest ever investigated screening of seemingly healthy people for atrial fibrillation, a condition that if not treated eventually it can cause strokes.
Researchers at Stanford University reported on Saturday that the watch was not a panic flock of people, warning only half a percent of participants – about 2,100 – that they could have a problem.
But even among those who are labeled "it's not perfect," Dr. Richard Kovacs warned with the American College of Cardiology, who was not involved in the studio.
People who received the warning should have consulted with a physician who studied via telemedicine and then carried the next ECG patch to measure heart activity for the following week to determine the accuracy of the clock. Some have skipped virtual control to consult with their doctors; A total of 57% sought medical assistance.
Among those who followed the ECG through the study, the third had atrial fibrillation, according to preliminary results presented at the American College of Cardiologists at Nev Orleans.
A-fib tends to come and go, and a tracking week may have missed some cases, said Stanford's leading researcher, Mint Turakhia. But if the clock detected another irregular heartbeat while someone was wearing an ECG patch, 84% of the time was really an a-fib, he said.
"This study, which we consider to be very encouraging evidence that the device, Apple Vatch, can be used to detect a-fibers and tell people when additional monitoring or testing is needed," said Dr Lloyd Minor, Dean of Stanford Medicine.
Other cardiologists say the study, funded by Apple, suggests that screening with carrier technology can eventually be technically achieved, but much more research is needed.
"I would not advise this to the entire general population," said Dr. Valentin Fuster, director of Mount Sinai Hearta in New York and former president of the American Heart Association, who was not involved in the studio. Instead, he would like to test it with older people with risk factors such as high blood pressure.
What is atrial fibrillation?
A-fib appears when the upper heart chambers, which are called atriums, withdraw from synchronization by pumping at the bottom of the chamber. Sometimes patients feel a flicker or racing heart, but they are not aware of episodes many times.
Sometimes the heart returns to the rhythm itself. Other patients get an electric shock to get back into the rhythm, or blood thinners are prescribed to prevent blood clots that cause a stroke that is not treated. A-fib causes 130,000 deaths and 750,000 hospitalized annually in the United States.
How do doctors check it?
A-fib is the most common in older adults, and other risks include high blood pressure or family history of arrhythmias. But routine screening is not recommended for people without symptoms. Studies have not yet proven that early detection from screening would prevent enough strokes to overcome the risks of unnecessary testing or excessive treatment.
How does Apple look at it?
The mobile application uses an optical sensor on certain clock versions to analyze pulse rate data. If it detects enough variation in relation to the rhythm over a period of 48 hours, the user receives a warning of an irregular heartbeat.
The latest version of Apple Vatch also allows carriers to push the button to take ECG and share readings with doctors. Saturday's study did not include watches with such abilities.
Does a new study show that mass search is a good idea?
Not. The study was designed to say that the clock was compared to the weekly standard ECG monitoring – not if the user's health improved because the screening revealed an arrhythmia. To prove that detection of a-fib early reduces the risk of stroke, it takes several years of study.
And since the study did not have a comparison group that received routine ECGs, there was no way to know if the clock missed problems with heartbeats, giving a false sense of security, Kovacs said.
A puzzling small number of alarms may be because the majority of the participants were young or middle-aged, and not the elderly who are at greatest risk of a-fibers, he said.
Lauran Neergaard, Associated Press
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