iPhone case & app helps detect stroke-causing heart rhythm

By Mariam Digges

iPhone case & app helps detect stroke-causing heart rhythm
A new iPhone case and app can cheaply and quickly detect heart rhythm problems and prevent strokes, according to the University of Sydney.

Presenting the findings at the Australia and New Zealand Cardiac Society conference on the Gold Coast, the team found that the AliveCor Heart Monitor for iPhone (IECG) was an accurate and cost-effective way to screen previously undiagnosed atrial fibrillation, which could help prevent strokes. The test is so easy and practical, even local pharmacies and general practitioner surgeries can easily embrace it.

The study’s senior author, Professor Ben Freedman, called the App an exciting breakthrough in stroke prevention.

“Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is the most common heart rhythm problem and is responsible for almost one third of all strokes,” he said.

“AF increases with age, affecting more than 15 per cent of people aged 85 years and over.  And people with atrial fibrillation face up to a five-fold increased risk of stroke, and tend to have more severe and life-threatening strokes.

“In addition, our research showed that about 1.4 per cent of people aged over 65 (50,000 Australians) have atrial fibrillation, but do not know it. There are currently a large number of people with unknown AF who are at high risk of stroke, but who are not on any medication.

“The good news is that stroke is highly preventable with anticoagulant medication, such as warfarin, or the new oral anticoagulants, which can reduce the risk by 66 per cent.

“The iECG allows us to screen patients for atrial fibrillation in minutes, and treat people early. This is a huge boost in the fight to reduce the amount of strokes, particularly in people over the age of 65,” Professor Freedman said.

When taking a reading, the iECG can be seen on the iPhone screen in real time. The reading can then be transmitted to a secure server (cloud) where a specialist can review the iECGs remotely. The website can automatically analyse the reading to make a diagnosis of AF. After testing the automatic prediction in the SEARCH-AF study, researchers found it correctly diagnoses atrial fibrillation 97 per cent of the time.

The development of the highly portable and cost-effective iECG is yet another example of the significance of research and fundraising in the fight against heart disease and stroke.

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