ECG feature in Apple Watch is already saving lives [u]

Posted:
in Apple Watch edited December 2018
The electrocardiogram function of the Apple Watch Series 4 went live as part of the watchOS 5.1.2 update released on Thursday is already proving its usefulness.

Apple Watch ECG app
Apple Watch ECG app


Released on Thursday, the watchOS 5.1.2 update added the ECG app to the Apple Watch Series 4. By using electrodes in the back crystal and the Digital Crown, a 30-second test can be performed, classifying the user's heart rate as atrial fibrillation (Afib,) sinus rhythm, or inconclusive.

A Reddit user identified as "edentel" wrote a post about their dealings with the Apple Watch Series 4 after running the update. Warned of an abnormal heart rate in notifications, the user tried out the ECG app and was provided the Afib result.

Initially the user believed there was a glitch with the firmware, after repeated tests came up Afib, but trials with the user's wife's wrist came back with normal results. After trying the other wrist and the other side of the arm, the warnings continued to be provided when the user tried out the app in other ways.






The Redditor writes they went to Patient First, expecting to just go home after potentially wasting their doctor's time. When asked what was wrong, "edentel" was embarrassed to say "Ok, so there's a new watch feature..." before asking to check its results.

The comment was a "quick queue pass" for Patient First, apparently, with the user hooked up for testing. The doctor looked at the readings from the medical equipment, and suggested "You should buy Apple stock. This probably saved you."

The doctor advised they had read about the ECG feature's release the previous evening, and while they thought there would be an upswing of patients reacting to the messages, the doctor "didn't expect it first thing this morning."

The Reddit user has reached out to AppleInsider since original publication, and has provided sufficient evidence to prove the story true. On a wider scale, it is highly likely the new ECG feature, as well as the Irregular Rhythm Notification feature available in earlier Apple Watch models, will prompt concerned users to check their health via their physician.

AppleInsider has reached out to several cardiologists in the Washington D.C. Metro area to talk about the update and the ECG feature. All of the groups we spoke to have either confirmed a reading in the emergency room since release of the OS update as a result of the reading at home, or have seen patients in the office already as a result.

Afib is said to be one of the leading conditions that can result in a stroke, and is the second-most common cause of death in the world. According to CDC estimates, Afib can affect up to two percent of the younger population of the United States, rising to nine percent for those aged 65 years or older.

Updated to note response from Reddit user.
spinnydDeelron
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    Apple Watch saves lives; FDA makes Apple execs use air quotes when saying it
    jbdragonrepressthisDeelronwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 39
    bageljoeybageljoey Posts: 1,752member
    I have been happy with my Series 3 Apple Watch. I was planning on skipping 4 even though I like the better screen.
    ...but should I risk my life to save a few hundred dollars?
    AppleExposedgutengelsvanstromtoysandmejbdragoncaladanianmagman1979repressthisAndy.Hardwakewatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 39
    bageljoey said:
    I have been happy with my Series 3 Apple Watch. I was planning on skipping 4 even though I like the better screen.
    ...but should I risk my life to save a few hundred dollars?
    The bigger, better screen alone is worth the upgrade. The ECG feature to me was a great idea so mostly upgraded for that. However, using the 4 for a couple months I must say the screen is so superior it is worth it just for that.
    stanthemannetmagetoysandmemagman1979repressthisjdgazDeelronwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 4 of 39
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,449member
    bageljoey said:
    I have been happy with my Series 3 Apple Watch. I was planning on skipping 4 even though I like the better screen.
    ...but should I risk my life to save a few hundred dollars?
    You could buy an AliveCor KardiaMobile device for $99 that links acoustically to most smartphones, but it's cumbersome to use (and impossible to use with almost any noise in the environment) and it's an extra device to carry. Or you could buy an AliveCor KardiaBand for your existing Apple Watch for $99, but to use it at all you need a $99/year subscription; it completely eliminates band options; and the reviews for it otherwise aren't great (uncomfortable, difficulty working, etc.)

    IMHO for anyone interested in monitoring their heart, the Apple Watch 4 is a killer deal.
    edited December 2018 toysandmejbdragongilly33jdgazwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 5 of 39
    sflagelsflagel Posts: 585member
    bageljoey said:
    I have been happy with my Series 3 Apple Watch. I was planning on skipping 4 even though I like the better screen.
    ...but should I risk my life to save a few hundred dollars?
    I read that atrial fibrillation is not life threatening. It increases your chances of a stroke (but so does eating too much chocolate). And it does not require an “ECG” to recognise it, it’s symptom is an irregular pulse, which is why Series 2 and 3 can also detect it. So what the ECG for? Is there a doctor in this forum that can explain it better than the NHS website? 
    edited December 2018 repressthis
  • Reply 6 of 39
    sflagel said:
    bageljoey said:
    I have been happy with my Series 3 Apple Watch. I was planning on skipping 4 even though I like the better screen.
    ...but should I risk my life to save a few hundred dollars?
    I read that atrial fibrillation is not life threatening. It increases your chances of a stroke (but so does eating too much chocolate). And it does not require an “ECG” to recognise it, it’s symptom is an irregular pulse, which is why Series 2 and 3 can also detect it. So what the ECG for? Is there a doctor in this forum that can explain it better than the NHS website? 
    Especially if you have been diagnosed with AFib the ECG function would be very helpful to monitor it. The irregular pulse thing won't tell you much if at all on a day to day basis nor are the specifics even available to review. The ECG has much more information and not just for AFib purposes.
    edited December 2018 caladanian
  • Reply 7 of 39
    sflagel said:
    bageljoey said:
    I have been happy with my Series 3 Apple Watch. I was planning on skipping 4 even though I like the better screen.
    ...but should I risk my life to save a few hundred dollars?
    I read that atrial fibrillation is not life threatening. It increases your chances of a stroke (but so does eating too much chocolate). And it does not require an “ECG” to recognise it, it’s symptom is an irregular pulse, which is why Series 2 and 3 can also detect it. So what the ECG for? Is there a doctor in this forum that can explain it better than the NHS website? 
    ECG confirms AFib. I am not a doctor, I just repeat what NHS says:
    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/atrial-fibrillation/diagnosis/
  • Reply 8 of 39
    bageljoey said:
    I have been happy with my Series 3 Apple Watch. I was planning on skipping 4 even though I like the better screen.
    ...but should I risk my life to save a few hundred dollars?
    For me it's the dramatic new speed, and the larger screen. Despite the AW3 being improved, it still got hung-up on certain screens, such as loading the Home app (I have lots of devices & scenes) or Workouts (if you left it on a prior workout summary). All gone now -- everything loads instantly. 
    caladanianmagman1979Rayz2016bageljoeyrepressthis
  • Reply 9 of 39
    I have a healthy heart, but I would not consider doing WITHOUT this cutting-edge technology, or Apple’s other innovations either. It is not that expensive — a few dollars a week. The make-believe technologies that we see in the movies will in real life be designed and sold by Apple, Inc. Apple Watch is one of them.
    caladanianmagman1979palomineDeelronAndy.Hardwakejony0
  • Reply 10 of 39
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,678member
    bageljoey said:
    I have been happy with my Series 3 Apple Watch. I was planning on skipping 4 even though I like the better screen.
    ...but should I risk my life to save a few hundred dollars?
    For me it's the dramatic new speed, and the larger screen. Despite the AW3 being improved, it still got hung-up on certain screens, such as loading the Home app (I have lots of devices & scenes) or Workouts (if you left it on a prior workout summary). All gone now -- everything loads instantly. 
    Yep. I'm still rocking an iPhone 7 Plus with no desire to upgrade, but I updated my Series 3 for a Series 4 with pleasure.
    jdgaz
  • Reply 11 of 39
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,782member
    So NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt did a negative hit piece on the ECG feature on tonight’s newscast. It emphasized possible problems with false positives and Apple’s warning that it is not intended to actually diagnose anything. The segment was negative all the way through.
  • Reply 12 of 39
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 338member
    sflagel said:
    bageljoey said:
    I have been happy with my Series 3 Apple Watch. I was planning on skipping 4 even though I like the better screen.
    ...but should I risk my life to save a few hundred dollars?
    I read that atrial fibrillation is not life threatening. It increases your chances of a stroke (but so does eating too much chocolate). And it does not require an “ECG” to recognise it, it’s symptom is an irregular pulse, which is why Series 2 and 3 can also detect it. So what the ECG for? Is there a doctor in this forum that can explain it better than the NHS website? 
    Afib not immediately life threatening might be true, but it depends on how long a person is experiencing Afib. Afib can cause arteries to clog, especially the carotid artery, leading directly to a stroke and death.

    When you see a loved one die in front of your eyes due to undiagnosed Afib leading to stroke and death, one doesn't view Afib so cavalierly by saying it is not life threatening. 
    bonobobStrangeDays
  • Reply 13 of 39
    roakeroake Posts: 624member
    sflagel said:
    bageljoey said:
    I have been happy with my Series 3 Apple Watch. I was planning on skipping 4 even though I like the better screen.
    ...but should I risk my life to save a few hundred dollars?
    I read that atrial fibrillation is not life threatening. It increases your chances of a stroke (but so does eating too much chocolate). And it does not require an “ECG” to recognise it, it’s symptom is an irregular pulse, which is why Series 2 and 3 can also detect it. So what the ECG for? Is there a doctor in this forum that can explain it better than the NHS website? 
    Afib is an irregular heart rhythm that increases risk of stroke, among other things.  There are other irregular heart rhythms besides afib that do not have the associated risk of stroke.  A typical ECG is called a 12-lead ECG (I still call it an EKG), and allows us to “see” the heart electrical conduction/rhythm from multiple viewpoints, over a few seconds of time.  This way, we get a much better view of what’s going on, allowing us to differentiate between the rhythms (we can see other stuff as well, but that’s another topic).  The Apple Watch does not utilize multiple leads, so we only see the heart’s electrical conduction from a single perspective, but many times, that can be good enough.

    Afib causes blood flow from the top chambers of the heart to be inefficient, and not empty as well.  There is a tiny pouch adjacent to one of the chambers called the left atrial appendage.  Normally, the blood gets squeezed out of the pouch with every heartbeat.  With afib, the blood doesn’t empty out all the way.  Blood that isn’t moving can clot.  A clot in the pouch can later dislodge and go to the brain to cause a stroke, or can go to other organs and cause serious damage.  Clots can from in other areas of the heart, but this is the “classic” example.

    The increased risk of stroke is based on several factors, and varies from person the person with afib.  The risk is usually a few percent per year.  People with afib get put on blood thinners and other medications to reduce this risk.

    Afib can cause problems in other ways: low blood pressure, low energy, reduced ability to exercise, heart failure, etc., especially if if the heart rate with afib is very fast.

    If your watch or other source says you have afib, you should always get it checked out by a physician immediately, for the reasons above, and because it’s usually easy to treat.

    Source: I’m an ICU doctor who sees this all the time.
    edited December 2018 Mike Wuerthelespinnydgilly33bageljoeySpamSandwichcheeselersflagelsflagelmacguiStrangeDays
  • Reply 14 of 39
    cpsro said:
    IMHO for anyone interested in monitoring their heart, the Apple Watch 4 is a killer deal.
    "killer deal"? 
  • Reply 15 of 39
    sflagelsflagel Posts: 585member
    roake said:
    sflagel said:
    bageljoey said:
    I have been happy with my Series 3 Apple Watch. I was planning on skipping 4 even though I like the better screen.
    ...but should I risk my life to save a few hundred dollars?
    I read that atrial fibrillation is not life threatening. It increases your chances of a stroke (but so does eating too much chocolate). And it does not require an “ECG” to recognise it, it’s symptom is an irregular pulse, which is why Series 2 and 3 can also detect it. So what the ECG for? Is there a doctor in this forum that can explain it better than the NHS website? 
    Afib is an irregular heart rhythm that increases risk of stroke, among other things.  There are other irregular heart rhythms besides afib that do not have the associated risk of stroke.  A typical ECG is called a 12-lead ECG (I still call it an EKG), and allows us to “see” the heart electrical conduction/rhythm from multiple viewpoints, over a few seconds of time.  This way, we get a much better view of what’s going on, allowing us to differentiate between the rhythms (we can see other stuff as well, but that’s another topic).  The Apple Watch does not utilize multiple leads, so we only see the heart’s electrical conduction from a single perspective, but many times, that can be good enough.

    Afib causes blood flow from the top chambers of the heart to be inefficient, and not empty as well.  There is a tiny pouch adjacent to one of the chambers called the left atrial appendage.  Normally, the blood gets squeezed out of the pouch with every heartbeat.  With afib, the blood doesn’t empty out all the way.  Blood that isn’t moving can clot.  A clot in the pouch can later dislodge and go to the brain to cause a stroke, or can go to other organs and cause serious damage.  Clots can from in other areas of the heart, but this is the “classic” example.

    The increased risk of stroke is based on several factors, and varies from person the person with afib.  The risk is usually a few percent per year.  People with afib get put on blood thinners and other medications to reduce this risk.

    Afib can cause problems in other ways: low blood pressure, low energy, reduced ability to exercise, heart failure, etc., especially if if the heart rate with afib is very fast.

    If your watch or other source says you have afib, you should always get it checked out by a physician immediately, for the reasons above, and because it’s usually easy to treat.

    Source: I’m an ICU doctor who sees this all the time.
    This is very interesting. So you think the ECG on the Series 4 is worth having, or the continuous pulse reading that all Apple watches can do is good enough to recognise it? 
  • Reply 16 of 39
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,231member
    It isn’t an ECG the AW measures, it’s only a rhythm measurement, that’s a big difference.
    Apple shouldn’t call it that way.
  • Reply 17 of 39
    roakeroake Posts: 624member
    sflagel said:
    roake said:
    sflagel said:
    bageljoey said:
    I have been happy with my Series 3 Apple Watch. I was planning on skipping 4 even though I like the better screen.
    ...but should I risk my life to save a few hundred dollars?
    I read that atrial fibrillation is not life threatening. It increases your chances of a stroke (but so does eating too much chocolate). And it does not require an “ECG” to recognise it, it’s symptom is an irregular pulse, which is why Series 2 and 3 can also detect it. So what the ECG for? Is there a doctor in this forum that can explain it better than the NHS website? 
    Afib is an irregular heart rhythm that increases risk of stroke, among other things.  There are other irregular heart rhythms besides afib that do not have the associated risk of stroke.  A typical ECG is called a 12-lead ECG (I still call it an EKG), and allows us to “see” the heart electrical conduction/rhythm from multiple viewpoints, over a few seconds of time.  This way, we get a much better view of what’s going on, allowing us to differentiate between the rhythms (we can see other stuff as well, but that’s another topic).  The Apple Watch does not utilize multiple leads, so we only see the heart’s electrical conduction from a single perspective, but many times, that can be good enough.

    Afib causes blood flow from the top chambers of the heart to be inefficient, and not empty as well.  There is a tiny pouch adjacent to one of the chambers called the left atrial appendage.  Normally, the blood gets squeezed out of the pouch with every heartbeat.  With afib, the blood doesn’t empty out all the way.  Blood that isn’t moving can clot.  A clot in the pouch can later dislodge and go to the brain to cause a stroke, or can go to other organs and cause serious damage.  Clots can from in other areas of the heart, but this is the “classic” example.

    The increased risk of stroke is based on several factors, and varies from person the person with afib.  The risk is usually a few percent per year.  People with afib get put on blood thinners and other medications to reduce this risk.

    Afib can cause problems in other ways: low blood pressure, low energy, reduced ability to exercise, heart failure, etc., especially if if the heart rate with afib is very fast.

    If your watch or other source says you have afib, you should always get it checked out by a physician immediately, for the reasons above, and because it’s usually easy to treat.

    Source: I’m an ICU doctor who sees this all the time.
    This is very interesting. So you think the ECG on the Series 4 is worth having, or the continuous pulse reading that all Apple watches can do is good enough to recognise it? 
    I am uncertain how the continuous pulse reading on the Apple Watch distinguishes between the various irregular rhythms (one of which is afib), or if, in fact, it does.

    If Apple has algorithms to accurately detect afib with the pulse readings, that would make the ECG on the Series 4 little more than a novelty to most lay people, with the exception that you could show the ECG to your doctor.

    To a physician, the ECG on an Apple Watch offers much more information that a simple yes/no on afib.  There is potentially a wealth of information about a myriad of heart issues.  This potential makes me think that Apple may later expand the problems that can be automatically detected.

    For example, there is another irregular rhythm called aflutter (atrial flutter instead of atrial fibrillation).  They both carry the risks for stroke, and are treated much the same way.

    I definitely think that over the next several years, we will see an increased ability for the watch to detect health issues.
    sflagelsflagelviclauyycDeelron
  • Reply 18 of 39
    roakeroake Posts: 624member
    knowitall said:
    It isn’t an ECG the AW measures, it’s only a rhythm measurement, that’s a big difference.
    Apple shouldn’t call it that way.
    It actually IS an ECG on the Series 4, just with fewer leads than the ones done in your doctors office.
    StrangeDaysthtwonkothesane
  • Reply 19 of 39
    Roake - thank you for taking time to share your feedback. I work in IT at an academic medical center. Being a small part of what people like you do everyday is truly a gift. This week my team deployed a predictive model that uses multiple real-time factors to detect the presence of sepsis for a patient currently in the hospital.  It alerts the medical team, who use established protocols to verify the prediction, and if so, commence with treatment.   Early detection allows for earlier treatment - essential for saving lives. 

    These tools such as the watch are imperfect to be sure, but exciting to see their use increasing. 


    roake
  • Reply 20 of 39
    lkrupp said:
    So NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt did a negative hit piece on the ECG feature on tonight’s newscast. It emphasized possible problems with false positives and Apple’s warning that it is not intended to actually diagnose anything. The segment was negative all the way through.
    What? They mean my watch is not actually a licensed and trained medical doctor? Shocking! Down with Apple!
    edited December 2018 viclauyycGeorgeBMacDeelron
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