Apple Watch could help spot another life-threatening heart disease

Medical researchers around the world continue to discover new ways that the Apple Watch can help save lives. A new study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic takes a closer look at the Apple Watch's electrocardiogram feature, with a focus on detecting heart abnormalities like left ventricular dysfunction. This is important research because dysfunction of the heart's left ventricle often leads to congestive heart failure, which can lead to a variety of heart diseases. The left ventricle is primarily responsible for pumping oxygen to the body's vital organs. Therefore, it is important to diagnose any problems with the left ventricle as early as possible.

Heart dysfunction is often difficult to diagnose because it is asymptomatic, meaning people with it don't know they have it, according to the Mayo Clinic. It would be a major breakthrough if something like the Apple Watch could passively detect it or help diagnose it. Although artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms are able to identify cardiac dysfunction from a 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG), defined as an ejection fraction (EF) ≤40%, identification of cardiac dysfunction using a single-lead ECG from a smartwatch has not been tested. This is groundbreaking research because the researchers used the Apple Watch's single-lead ECG feature to collect data and process it to identify left ventricular dysfunction.

The researchers digitally recruited 2,454 patients from 46 U.S. states and 11 other countries who sent 125,610 electrocardiograms from their Apple Watch to the data platform between August 2021 and February 2022. This ECG data is refreshed and processed through a proprietary AI algorithm developed by the researchers.

The study found that the AI ​​algorithm was able to detect patients with low EF (ejection fraction) from the aforementioned ECG. These findings suggest that smartwatch ECGs obtained in a non-clinical setting can identify patients with cardiac insufficiency, a potentially life-threatening and often asymptomatic condition. The results and findings of this groundbreaking clinical study were published this week in Nature Medicine.

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