AUG 26, 2018 1:49 AM PDT

An App That Can Detect Atrial Fibrillation

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Image Credit: DesignFollow.com

According to a DIGITAL-AF study, a smartphone application (app) can now assist in detecting atrial fibrillation. The principal investigator of the study, Professor Pieter Vandervoort, from the University of Hasselt, Belgium, explains that, "Most people have a smartphone with a camera which is all they need to detect atrial fibrillation. This is a low-cost way to screen thousands of people for a condition which is becoming more prevalent and can have serious consequences unless treated."

The most common heart rhythm disorder, atrial fibrillation can go undiagnosed and many patients remain untreated. The developed app can combat this issue. In particular, DIGITAL-AF analyzed the efficacy of atrial fibrillation detection with the application that was medically certified in Europe.

Participants in the research study were enrolled to use their own smartphone to measure their heart rhythm twice per day for one week. Individuals would place their left index finger on the front side of the smartphone camera for one minute where photoplethysmography measures the rhythm. The measurements would be classified under one of four categories: regular rhythm, possible atrial fibrillation, other irregular rhythm, or insufficient quality. The participants then would receive a generated report on their phone consisting of rhythm traces and an interpretation. The heart rhythm measurements that were classified as “indicating atrial fibrillation” or “other irregular rhythms” were then seen by medical professionals trained in photoplethysmography signal analysis, under the guidance of cardiologists.

"The verification of diagnoses by medical technicians showed that interpretations by the app were very accurate, suggesting that this step could be significantly downsized and possibly omitted from a screening program. According to our study approximately 225 people would need to be screened to detect one new atrial fibrillation diagnosis. This is an acceptable return, given the low cost," says Professor Vandervoort.

All participants with atrial fibrillation or other irregular rhythms, according to the app, were highly advised to see a physician. Fortunately, smartphones are becoming popular among the aging population who are more susceptible to atrial fibrillation and where the app can be of great use. Professor Vandervoort notes, "This technology has real potential to find people with previously unknown atrial fibrillation so they can be treated."

Source: European Society of Cardiology

About the Author
  • Nouran earned her BS and MS in Biology at IUPUI and currently shares her love of science by teaching. She enjoys writing on various topics as well including science & medicine, global health, and conservation biology. She hopes through her writing she can make science more engaging and communicable to the general public.
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