Atrial fibrillation or abnormal heart rhythms can often lead to serious health complications including blood clots, stroke, and cardiac arrest. It affects over a million people in India every year and causes about 25 percent of all strokes. However, it usually doesn’t show any clear symptoms, especially in its initial phases. Thus, its timely detection and diagnosis continue to be a challenge for medical experts.
The newly developed ECG necklace may prove handy in saving many of these lives. Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland have developed a necklace that can detect atrial fibrillation among its users. The novel necklace embeds a single-lead ECG into its pendant. It further measures our heart rhythm using an AI system.
Study author Elmeri Santala said, “The wearable necklace-ECG (electrocardiogram) provides a new and easy method for detecting an abnormal heart rhythm or atrial fibrillation, which is a fast-growing public health problem.”
How does the ECG necklace detect Atrial fibrillation?
Step 1: Users start an application in their smartphone and then place the pendant for 30 seconds between their two palms or the palm and chest.
Step 2: After 30 seconds, the data is sent to a cloud service.
Step 3: Consequently, the collected data is evaluated and analysed for atrial fibrillation using artificial intelligence.
Step 4: The analysis results are then displayed on the smartphone app within a few seconds. Furthermore, an ECG report is also generated for physicians to further evaluate the diagnosis.
Remarkably, the research study on the necklace is also set to be demonstrated at a scientific platform of the European Society of Cardiology, EHRA Essentials 4 You. The study had examined the diagnostic accuracy of the novel necklace ECG.
The research study had enrolled 145 people who used the ECG necklace to measure their heart rhythm. Additionally, the participants also underwent a 3-lead ECG recording as a ‘gold-standard’ comparison. Later, all the ECG recordings were analysed by two cardiologists as well as the automated AI system. Moreover, to avoid biases, cardiologists were blinded to the initial 12-lead and 3-lead ECG recordings.
It was observed that the necklace produced ECG recordings with excellent quality to detect atrial fibrillation. Furthermore, the diagnoses made by standard ECG measurements were also picked up by the smart wear with high accuracy.
Elmeri Santala noted that the necklace ECG is simple to use and allows repetitive self-monitoring of heart rhythm. Thus, it significantly improves the likelihood of detecting atrial fibrillation.
Notably, the European Society of Cardiology recommends screening for atrial fibrillation in people who are older than 65 years or are at higher risk of a stroke. The study suggests that the automated analysis by the ECG necklace can be a great tool for the purpose. However, scholars also noted that the diagnosis of atrial fibrillation should always be confirmed by a physician using the ECG report.
Notably, the Apple smartwatch line up with in-built ECG functionality has also saved several lives after detecting atrial fibrillation conditions among its users.