Apple smartwatches could really save lives

To put the algorithm to the test, the scientists validated it against 51 patients who were scheduled to receive treatment for AF.
By Clint Huston | May 15, 2017
A new study has revealed the Apple watch has been found to detect a heart ailment that affects approximately 2.7 million people in the United States.

By pairing the smartwatch's heart rate sensors with artificial intelligence, the scientists were able to develop an algorithm capable of distinguishing an irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation (AF) from a regular rhythm, with 97 percent accuracy.

Although easily treatable, atrial fibrillation has been difficult to diagnose.

As a result, the team believes that their work could pave the way for new methods to identify the condition.

Atrial fibrillation is a heart condition that can cause blood to clot in the heart, which then leads to a stroke.

One in four strokes is caused by Atrial fibrillation.

The research was carried out by the University of California, San Francisco, in collaboration with the app Cardiogram which tracks a person's sleep, stress, and fitness via the Apple Watch's inbuilt heart rate sensor.

According to AppleInsider, the researchers trained a deep neural network with heart readings from 6,158 Cardiogram users. The team recorded 139 million heart rate measurements and 6,338 mobile ECGs from a sample group.

The collected data was then used to develop a unique algorithm to detect the irregular heartbeat that is caused by atrial fibrillation.

To put the algorithm to the test, the scientists validated it against 51 patients who were scheduled to receive treatment for AF.

Each study participant was required to wear an Apple Watch for 20 minutes before and after cardioversion a procedure that restores normal heart rhythms to patients suffering from arrhythmias.

The Artificial Intelligence was found to detect the heart abnormality with 97 percent accuracy.

"Our results show that conventional wearable trackers like smartwatches present a novel opportunity to monitor, capture and prompt medical therapy for atrial fibrillation without any active effort from the patients," said Dr. Gregory Marcus, Director of Clinical Research at UCSFs's Division of Cardiology, speaking to AppleInsider.

Although this study has the potential to change how people with AF are diagnosed, the researchers believe there is still more work to be done before sharing it with the public.

 

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