The most common type of arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation is an irregular beating of the heart that can lead to stroke, blood clots, or heart failure if left unchecked. And unless an electrocardiogram is being used, it can be difficult to detect. Soon, however, an app may be all that's required to do the job.
In a 2011 study, scientists from Finland's University of Turku collaborated with colleagues at Turku University Hospital, to see if small accelerometers could be used to detect the telltale tiny chest movements associated with atrial fibrillation. It turned out that they could, which caused the team to wonder if the accelerometers in standard smartphones would also work.
To that end, a team led by researcher Tero Koivisto recently created an app that requires the phone to simply be placed upon the patient's chest, where it detects and analyzes micromovements caused by their heartbeat. In a blind study conducted on 300 patients from the hospital, half of whom had atrial fibrillation, the app was 96 percent accurate at detecting the condition – it was able to do so even though many of the patients also had other heart problems.
The app is now being further developed for commercialization, by spinoff company Precordior Ltd. It could ultimately be used by patients checking their own health, by doctors in their offices, or by medical staff in hospitals located in developing nations.
A paper on the research was recently published in the Circulation Journal.
Scientists from The Chinese University of Hong Kong have also developed an atrial fibrillation-detection app, although it utilizes the phone's camera to analyze subtle changes in patients' facial skin color, which are an indicator of fluctuations in their heart rate.
Source: University of Turku
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