New Apple Watch study aims to cut blood thinner use by AFib patients

in Apple Watch edited August 2022
The Apple Watch is being used as part of a study to determine if it is possible to cut down the use of expensive blood thinners used to prevent strokes from atrial fibrillation.

The seven-year study, which has secured $37 million in funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, aims to tackle the use of blood thinnersby patients suffering from atrial fibrillation (AFib). It is thought that between 2.5 million and 5 million people in the U.S. are affected by AFib, which can potentially result in a stroke, heart failure, and death.

Blood thinners are the common method of treatment, but it can cause problems including dangerous bleeding. Sustained use of blood thinners can be a health risk in itself, and also expensive, so a reduction in using them could help cut costs to patients as well as save lives.

A seven-year study, a partnership between the American Heart Association and Northwestern Medicine, will attempt to use the Apple Watch to try and do just that, by monitoring the hearts of patients. The Apple Watch has an ECG and a number of heart-related notifications, including detecting an irregular heart rhythm, which the study plans to use.

The Rhythm Evaluation for AniCoagulaTion (REACT-AF) trial will compare the existing standard of care for patients with a history of AFib against a second group, one that will use time-delimited anticoagulation that will be provided for a brief period, reports Yahoo! Life. This second group will use the Apple Watch and an accompanying iPhone app to manage treatment and to monitor progress.

As part of the study, Apple will be donating hardware and helping develop applications that the study will use. This will include a custom algorithm that will check heart rhythms at a higher frequency than normal, according to Stat News.

Under the trial, the Apple Watch will tell patients to take blood thinners if it detects atrial fibrillation lasting several hours, and to continue doing so until the highest risk of stroke has passed. The process will be entirely automated, without intervention by a physician.

"For many of us physicians who primarily take care of patients we see the inadequacies of some of the treatment recommendations," Director of the Center for Arrhythmia Research at Northwestern University Rod S. Passman said. Passman saw that blood thinners helped many patients, but others didn't benefit, and ended up exposed to danger.

"The concept of targeting individuals during high-risk periods grew out of that experience," Passman added.

Apple VP of Health Dr. Sumbul Desai said in a statement "Heart health has always been a core focus of Apple Watch and we're thrilled to explore another opportunity for the powerful sensors in Apple Watch to help patients better manage their AFib treatment through the REACT-AF study."

If successful, the trial could be extremely beneficial to Apple, which has repeatedly promoted the heart-related features of its wearable device. It has also been credited with saving numerous lives with its features, and has also been used in a number of other health studies.

The Apple Watch has previously been used as part of an Apple Heart Study in collaboration with Stanford Medicine, though that study was used to generally analyze the use of the technology, rather than a specific medical use case.

Another Heartline study by Johnson & Johnson and Apple is also looking into ECG and irregular rhythm notifications and if the risk of stroke can be reduced.

Read on AppleInsider


  • Reply 1 of 5
    The Apple Watch is an remains a non-professional health device.
    No matter how much marketing budget spent on it, the lack of interfaces to measure physical health parameters in secure and robust manners hamper the medical innovation. Then there is the (related) ongoing problem of authorization needed to become a keep player in this industry that Tim Cook fails to address properly.  Instead, there is always words, words, words
    edited August 2022 FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 2 of 5
    JP234JP234 Posts: 749member
    My brother's Apple Watch 6 indicated he was in AFib. He went to his VA cardiologist, who told him not to worry, it "probably wasn't AFib." A day later, after he came home from walking his dog, he was gasping for breath, his heart rate was up, and the watch was sending him constant warnings of AFib We STRONGLY pressured him  to see a private sector cardiologist, which he did, and got a 12 lead ECG which confirmed Dr. Watch's diagnosis. He's had two ablations, a cardioversion, and a Watchman filter implanted, and now is in normal sinus rhythm, and feels way better than he has in years.

    Moral of the story: the Apple Watch is a valuable consumer level diagnostic tool, but any abnormal result MUST be followed up with an appropriate specialist, and even two specialists.
  • Reply 3 of 5
    Why are blood thinners so expensive in the USA?
    edited August 2022
  • Reply 4 of 5
    michelb76 said:
    Why are blood thinners so expensive in the USA?
    It must depend on the blood thinner. Coumadin, aka Warfarin, is cheap, like a few dollars for a month's supply.

  • Reply 5 of 5
    markbvt said:
    michelb76 said:
    Why are blood thinners so expensive in the USA?
    It must depend on the blood thinner. Coumadin, aka Warfarin, is cheap, like a few dollars for a month's supply.

    Warfarin is cheap, yes. It also requires frequent blood testing which means frequent doctor visits for lab tests (every few days or weekly in the beginning and then every 2 to 4 weeks once the dose is stable). I was also told it is harder to stop bleeding if you cut yourself than other anticoagulants. It wasn't hard for me to decide that the extra $$$ was worth it.
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