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Can 'smart' watchband accurately detect heart rhythm?

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From steps to sleep, it seems there's a wearable device to track just about everything, but are the readings accurate?

That's what a Cleveland Clinic team wanted to know when they tested new smartwatch technology designed to detect and diagnose atrial fibrillation? a common problem where the heart beats erratically. 

"When we compared the diagnosis made by the automated algorithm to the 12-lead physician interpreted electrocardiogram we found that the algorithm was able to detect atrial fibrillation with 93 percent sensitivity," said lead author Khaldoun Tarakji, M.D., MPH of Cleveland Clinic. 

The technology pairs a high-tech smartwatch wristband with an app and electronically records a single lead rhythm strip for 30 seconds. 

Researchers studied the technology with 100 people who were already scheduled for cardioversion, a common procedure to restore normal heart rhythm when someone is experiencing atrial fibrillation.  

They wanted to see if the smartwatch technology could accurately diagnose an erratic heartbeat with the same precision that a 12-lead electrocardiogram does.

Results showed the smartwatch technology correctly detected atrial fibrillation 93 percent of the time. 

However, it didn't always get the diagnosis right, so Dr. Tarakji said it's important that a doctor read the recordings.  

Findings also show that atrial fibrillation naturally corrected itself in eight of the study participants, which means they didn't end up needing cardioversion after all.

Those who have this type of procedure currently come to the hospital for testing to see if their heart is still beating erratically. 

Dr. Tarakji said if this type of wearable device is used in the future to transmit data before someone leaves their house, it could save the family and medical team time and resources. 

"Having these tools and looking at the future, maybe, these procedures could have been avoided to begin with if we had the ability of knowing that that patient is actually back in regular rhythm before we bring them to the lab," said Dr. Tarakji. 

Complete results of the study can be found in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 

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