ECG on smartwatch accurately detects AFib

The combination of a wearable, smartphone app and wristband was able to accurately show the electrical activity in the heart and notify those with atrial fibrillation (AFib) abnormal behaviors, according to a recent study.

The smartwatch wristband records electrocardiographic (ECG) tracing and shows the heart’s electrical activity. Users can place a finger on the wristband and are supplied with information regarding their rhythm calculated by a smartphone algorithm.

"Our patients are exposed to a growing number of health care devices that are available for purchase without a prescription. What we don't know is if these devices provide meaningful clinical information that patients and their physicians can interpret and use effectively," said Joseph Bumgarner, MD, an electrophysiology fellow at Cleveland Clinic and the lead author of the study, which will be presented next week at the American College of Cardiology's 67th Annual Scientific Session in Orlando. "Our study is the first to assess how accurately a wearable smartwatch device can identify AFib or normal sinus rhythm compared to a standard 12-lead ECG as is often done in the clinic."

In the study, 100 patients with AFib received a smartwatch with a wristband. Participants were coached on how to use the technology to generate wave-patterned tracing. They also underwent an ECG to evaluate the accuracy of the device.

Results showed, when the algorithm provided a diagnosis, it detected AFib with 93 percent sensitivity and 84 percent specificity when compared to the ECG. When an electrophysiologist interpreted the data, the accuracy was raised to 99 percent sensitivity and 83 percent specificity

"Out of the box, the smartwatch band and its algorithm were very good at identifying AFib, but when coupled with a physician's interpretation of the recording [as it should be used], it became even more clinically useful," Bumgarner said. "Its accuracy was comparable to the standard 12-lead ECG that we use in our clinic every day. There were a significant number of patients--about 8 percent--who on the day of their procedure were found to have a normal heart rhythm [as determined by the watch and validated by the ECG] and did not require a procedure. In the future this technology may help screen patients prior to presentation for elective procedures and avoid scheduling ones that are unnecessary."