Study: Apple Watch Could Detect Irregular Heartbeats

By R.J. Johnson - @rickerthewriter

March 18, 2019

Apple Watch study finds irregular heartbeats

Wearing an Apple Watch could help detect a life-threatening heart condition a new study from Stanford University School of Medicine suggests.

Preliminary findings from the study (which was sponsored by Apple), showed that the wearable technology could detect heart rate irregularities that subsequent medical tests confirm to be atrial fibrillation. Dr. Mintu Turakhia, the co-principal investigator and associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford Medical school said the study's findings have the potential to help patients and doctors.

The virtual study studied more than 400,000 volunteers in an effort to see if data from a heart rate pulse sensor could identify AFib in people. Study participants had both an iPhone and Apple Watch.

The app used data gathered from the heart-rate pulse sensor to look for irregular pulses. If an irregular heartbeat was detected, participants were notified to schedule a consultation with a study doctor. Participants who received notifications would then be sent electrocardiography patches to record their heart's rhythm for up to one week.

"The performance and accuracy we observed in this study provides important information as we seek to understand the potential impact of wearable technology on the health system," Dr. Marco Perez, co-principal investigator and associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford Medicine, said in a statement.

Only about 0.5% of study participants received a notification, researchers say. About one-third of the participants who were asked to follow up, were found to have atrial fibrillation.

"The results of the Apple Heart Study highlight the potential role that innovative digital technology can play in creating more predictive and preventive health care," said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine. "Atrial fibrillation is just the beginning, as this study opens the door to further research into wearable technologies and how they might be used to prevent disease before it strikes — a key goal of precision health."

The latest version of the Apple Watch includes a built-in electrocardiography feature, but that was not used because that was released after the study's launch.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says atrial fibrillation, or AFib contributes to 130,000 deaths and 750,000 hospitalizations in the United States every year.

Photo: Getty Images

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