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Apple Watch App Identifies Irregular Heart Rhythms

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 29 Jan 2018
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Image: Apple and Stanford have jointly launched a study to identify atrial fibrillation (Photo courtesy of Apple).
Image: Apple and Stanford have jointly launched a study to identify atrial fibrillation (Photo courtesy of Apple).
A first-of-its-kind research study will use the Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor to collect data on irregular heart rhythms and notify users who may be experiencing atrial fibrillation (AF).

The Apple (Cupertino, CA, USA) Heart Study app, launched in partnership with Stanford University School of Medicine (CA, USA), is available for download on the Apple App Store to holders of an Apple Watch Series 1 or later, and who are 22 years or older. To calculate heart rate and rhythm, Apple Watch’s sensor uses green light emitting diode (LED) lights flashing hundreds of times per second and light-sensitive photodiodes to detect the amount of blood flowing through the wrist.

The sensor’s unique optical design gathers signals from four distinct points on the wrist, and when combined with powerful software algorithms, the Apple Watch can isolate actual heart rhythms from other incidental noise. As part of the study, if an irregular heart rhythm is identified, participants will receive a notification on their Apple Watch and iPhone, together with a free consultation with a study doctor and an electrocardiogram (ECG) patch for additional monitoring.

“Every week we receive incredible customer letters about how Apple Watch has affected their lives, including learning that they have atrial fibrillation. These stories inspire us, and we're determined to do more to help people understand their health,” said Jeff Williams, COO of Apple. “Working alongside the medical community, not only can we inform people of certain health conditions, we also hope to advance discoveries in heart science.”

“Through the Apple Heart Study, Stanford Medicine faculty will explore how technology like Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor can help usher in a new era of proactive health care central to our Precision Health approach,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of Stanford University School of Medicine. “We’re excited to work with Apple on this breakthrough heart study.”

AF occurs when the heart's two upper chambers beat erratically. In one form, paroxysmal AF, patients have bouts of erratic beats that begin spontaneously and usually last less than a week. AAD can control the heart rhythm and symptoms of AF, but many patients do not respond well. AF can lead to serious adverse events such as thrombi traveling from the heart to obstruct arteries supplying the brain, causing stroke, or other parts of the body causing tissue damage.

Related Links:
Stanford University School of Medicine

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