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Abnormal heartbeat identified in 1 in 20 older adults using wrist-worn wearable and smartphone

by Angelika Leute, Kompetenznetz Vorhofflimmmern eV (AFNET)

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public domain

Consumer electronics offer a new way to screen for atrial arrhythmias. One study provided smartphone and wearable-based continuous arrhythmia screening to older adults with no known atrial fibrillation. Atrial arrhythmia was detected in five percent of participants. The research was carried out by AFNET. The principal investigator was Professor Larissa Fabritz, University of Birmingham and University Medical Center Hamburg Eppendorf (UKE), Hamburg, Germany.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common arrhythmia and an increasing epidemic. It affects several million people in Europe, mainly older adults. In many people, the arrhythmia is asymptomatic and often goes unnoticed for a long time. This can be dangerous because the risk of stroke and other complications may be increased in older adults with atrial arrhythmias, even if the arrhythmia occurs only temporarily and goes unnoticed by the affected person.

Timely detection of atrial arrhythmias may enable earlier therapy to prevent complications, for example by initiating anticoagulation to prevent strokes. Experts therefore advise screening in the elderly population to systematically look for arrhythmias. Modern wearables linked to the smartphone offer a new route for this.

The Smart in OAC—AFNET 9 (Smartphone and wearable detected atrial arrhythmia in Older Adults Case finding) study provided continuous atrial arrhythmia screening in people older than 65 years with no known atrial fibrillation and not receiving oral anticoagulation. The study was conducted in Germany, Poland and Spain during the COVID pandemic in 2021. 882 seniors between the ages of 65 and 90 participated and registered signals.

Professor Fabritz explained the background of the study: “Simple, scalable methods to identify atrial arrhythmias in at-risk populations are needed to enable timely detection of AF and initiation of therapy. That is why we have included the Smart in OAC-AFNET 9- study conducted and evaluated the utility of a fully digital detection system for atrial arrhythmias in older adults.”

Seniors were invited to participate in various ways. Most of the participants were reached through media campaigns in newspapers and television or through word of mouth and town hall meetings for senior citizens. The remaining participants were attracted by leaflets, identified by general practitioners pointed to the research, a website, outpatient clinics or pharmacies.

Participants were given a wristband with a sensor to detect heart rate, linked to an app on their smartphone, allowing complete monitoring of the rhythm remotely for up to eight weeks. Remote participation was essential in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Atrial arrhythmia was detected in 44 participants (5%) within 28 days. Atrial arrhythmia detection was higher in the first week of monitoring compared to subsequent weeks. Only in a few people arrhythmia first occurred after more than four weeks.

Professor Fabritz concluded: “Smart in OAC—AFNET 9 successfully used a smartphone and wearable-based system to detect atrial arrhythmias in the elderly in several European countries. Remote technical assistance offers were accepted and compliance was high, demonstrating that it is feasible for this age group.”

“Our screening identified atrial arrhythmias in 5% of older adults. Detection rates were high in the first week of monitoring and tapered off thereafter, suggesting that relatively short monitoring periods may be sufficient to detect older adults with atrial arrhythmias. These findings are encouraging the use of fully digital, consumer electronics based systems to screen for atrial arrhythmias in unselected older adults.”

Offered by Kompetenznetz Vorhofflimmmern eV (AFNET)

Quote: Abnormal Heartbeat Identified in 1 in 20 Older Adults Wearing a Wearable and Smartphone on the Wrist (2022, Nov. 24) Retrieved Nov. 24, 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-11-abnormal-heartbeat- older-adults-wrist worn.html

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