Study finds phone app effectively identifies potentially fatal heart attacks with the near accuracy of a standard ECG

Nov. 12, 2018

Can your smart phone determine if you’re having the most serious—and deadly—form of heart attack? A new research study says it can—and may be a valuable tool to save lives.

The international study, led by researchers from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, found that a smartphone app to monitor heart activity and determine if someone is having an ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI), a heart attack in which the artery is completely blocked, has nearly the same accuracy as a standard 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG), which is used to diagnose heart attacks.

Researchers say the findings are significant because the speed of treatment after a STEMI heart attack helps save lives.

In the study, 204 patients with chest pain received both a standard 12-lead ECG and an ECG through the AliveCor app, which is administered through a smartphone with a two-wire attachment. Researchers found the app with the wire set-up effective in distinguishing STEMI from not-STEMI ECGs accurately and with high sensitivity compared to a traditional 12-lead ECG.

A STEMI is a very serious type of heart attack during which one of the heart’s major arteries—which supplies oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the heart muscle—is blocked. ST-segment elevation is an abnormality that’s detectable on the 12-lead ECG.

Researchers presented results from the study at the American Heart Association’s 2018 Scientific Session in Chicago.

The new Apple 4 smartwatch also comes with a single-lead ECG. A typical ECG has 12 leads, which improves the accuracy of a diagnosis because heart attacks happen in different parts of the heart, and each lead looks at a different part. With the AliveCor app, the two wire leads are moved around the body in order to record all 12 parts.

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