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New app detects heart rhythm problem that can cause stroke

Press Trust of India  |  Melbourne 

A new smartphone case and app can be used to quickly and cheaply detect heart rhythm problems and prevent strokes.

University of Sydney researchers found the AliveCor Heart Monitor for iPhone (iECG) is a highly-effective, accurate and cost-effective way to screen patients to identify previously undiagnosed atrial fibrillation (AF) and hence help prevent strokes.

The iECG allows doctors to screen patients for atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm problem, in minutes and treat them early.

Senior author, Professor Ben Freedman, said that the device was an exciting breakthrough and would assist in the challenge to improve early identification of atrial fibrillation and prevention of stroke.

"Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is the most common heart rhythm problem and is responsible for almost one third of all strokes," he said.

"AF increases with age, affecting more than 15 per cent of people aged 85 years and over. And people with atrial fibrillation face up to a five-fold increased risk of stroke, and tend to have more severe and life-threatening strokes.

"The good is that stroke is highly preventable with anticoagulant medication, such as warfarin, or the new oral anticoagulants, which can reduce the risk by 66 per cent.

"The iECG allows us to screen patients for atrial fibrillation in minutes, and treat people early. This is a huge boost in the fight to reduce the amount of strokes, particularly in people over the age of 65," Freedman said.

Lead author Nicole Lowres also said the knowledge gap of patients with AF was surprising and alarming.

"Over half of those with known atrial fibrillation in AF at the time of screening were unaware of their diagnosis even though many of them were prescribed and taking warfarin to treat their condition," she said.

"The iECG can be viewed on the phone screen and also used as an educational tool to teach people about their heart rhythm," she said.

The researchers are currently trialling iECG screening in General practitioner (GP) surgeries in Sydney.

First Published: Tue, August 13 2013. 13:32 IST