Apple Watch successfully detected heart failure with a new app

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Researchers have developed a new app that successfully uses an Apple Watch to monitor signs of left ventricular dysfunction. Sellwell/Getty Images
  • A new study indicates that an Apple Watch app could be useful in detecting left ventricular dysfunction.
  • Left ventricular dysfunction is a condition in which the heart cannot pump properly.
  • The app used in the study worked similarly to a traditional 12-lead electrocardiogram.
  • Experts say it may allow patients to detect and monitor heart failure without an office visit.

A Mayo Clinic study presented on May 1, 2022 at the Heart Rhythm 2022 conference in San Francisco, California, found that a new Apple Watch app that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze watch data could be useful in detecting left ventricular dysfunction. .

Left ventricular dysfunction is a type of heart failure in which one of the chambers of the heart, the left ventricle, weakens, leaving the heart unable to adequately pump blood throughout the body.

It can be caused by chronic or poorly controlled high blood pressure or damage to the heart muscle due to blockage of the coronary arteries.

People with heart failure may experience symptoms such as:

  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue
  • swollen legs and belly
  • to cough
  • weight gain
  • nausea
  • chest pain
  • racing heartbeat

They may also have no noticeable symptoms.

Mayo Clinic patients who owned an Apple Watch and wanted to download the Mayo Clinic iOS app were invited to participate in the study.

The Apple Watch was used for the study because its Series 4, 5, 6 and 7 watches have a sensor capable of detecting electrical impulses indicating heart rate and rhythm.

This data can be used to determine the presence of atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat).

A total of 2,454 people from 46 states and 11 countries participated. The average age of the study participants was 53 years old and 56% of them were women.

The app sent all previously collected electrocardiograms (ECGs) to the clinic for review.

ECG obtained within one month of clinical prescription echocardiograms were analyzed by AI for an ejection fraction (a measure of ventricle output) less than or equal to 40% using a template developed specifically for single-lead ECGs.

Turnout was quite high, according to the study authors. Over the year of the study, people submitted 125,610 EKGs and 92% of them used the app multiple times.

The app detected at least one sinus rhythm (normal heart rhythm) in 421 patients within 30 days of a echocardiogram.

Sixteen people had an ejection fraction of 40% or less, meaning their hearts weren’t pumping well enough.

Thirteen of those 16 were identified using the watch’s AI ECG.

According to Dr. Annabelle Santos Volgman, professor of medicine and senior attending physician at Rush Medical College and Rush University Medical Center, researchers have found that the Apple Watch is just as effective as a 12-lead ECG your doctor might do. in his office.

“For detecting atrial fibrillation, it’s great,” she said, adding, “but it’s not good for detecting other problems like heart attacks or thickening of the heart muscle.”

Dr. Wesley Milks, cardiologist and clinical assistant professor of internal medicine at Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University, explained further: “A standard diagnostic ECG performed in the hospital or clinic is a 12 leads, which is much more detailed in terms of what conditions can be detected.

Volgman said she has been using the Apple Watch as part of caring for her patients for many years now.

“We can document the rhythm the patient has when they are symptomatic with palpitations. I can reassure them that it’s not a worrying problem when you don’t see an arrhythmia,” she explained.

When problems arise, she said she can then move on to the next phase of assessing their risk and what to do about their symptoms.

Milks says he also often uses data from the Apple Watch.

“For example,” Milks said, “I can ask them to record an ECG tracing when they have their symptoms or report their heart rate values ​​over time.”

He notes that in addition to performing a single-lead ECG, the Apple Watch is able to monitor heart rate, oxygen saturation, step count, standing frequency, calories burned, and sleep patterns. , all of which can be useful information in patient care.

According to the study’s lead author, Dr. Paul Friedman, we can now add the detection of a weakened heart to the list, saying it’s “absolutely remarkable that AI transforms a consumer watch ECG signal into a detector of this condition”.

He believes that in the future, people will be able to screen and monitor heart failure from the comfort of their own home simply by using their Apple Watch and an app.

“This offers the possibility of improved access to care,” Friedman said, “and a marked reduction in the cost of certain diagnostic tests and research studies…”

He stressed, however, that this research is still in its early stages and will need to be tested and validated before it becomes available to patients.

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