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A study has found that a new cellphone app is nearly as effective at detecting life-threatening heart attacks as a standard electrocardiogram (ECG).
The study, conducted by researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, tested the accuracy of the feature inside AliveCor, an app designed to determine whether an individual is suffering from an ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI), a heart attack caused by a completely blocked artery. Unlike a traditional ECG, the app requires only a two-wire attachment as opposed to 12-leads placed on the body in order to record the heart’s electrical activity.
Tested on 204 patients experiencing chest pain, the app produced significant results, according to Dr. J. Brent Muhlestein, the study’s lead investigator.
“We found the app helped us diagnose heart attacks very effectively—and it didn’t indicate the presence of a heart attack when one wasn’t occurring,” Dr. Muhlestein said.
By allowing individuals to quickly determine the presence of a heart attack, Muhlestein says the app can increase the chances of surviving a STEMI.
“The sooner you can get the artery open, the better the patient is going to do,” Dr. Muhlestein added. “We found this app may dramatically speed things up and save your life.”
The app will also be able to upload your results to the cloud for review by a cardiologist, who can tell a person experiencing a STEMI to immediately seek medical help.
“If somebody gets chest pain and they haven’t ever had chest pain before, they might think it’s just a bug or it’s gas and they won’t go to the emergency room,” Dr. Muhlestein said. “That’s dangerous, because the faster we open the blocked artery, the better the patient’s outcome will be.”
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Results from the study were recently presented at the American Heart Association’s 2018 Scientific Session in Chicago. Intermountain Healthcare also notes that given the low cost of such apps, ECG technology can now be put “into the hands of anyone with a smartphone or smartwatch,” making it “accessible in places like third world countries.”
Mikael Thalen is a tech and security reporter based in Seattle, covering social media, data breaches, hackers, and more.