This smartphone app can save your life if you have a heart attack


Researchers say the application with a two-wire accessory can diagnose a serious heart attack as well as an ECG.

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Developers are creating applications for smartphones that can provide information about heart conditions. Getty Images

A ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) is fatal if a person does not receive prompt access to treatment.

A new smartphone application can help in these cases.

A recent study concludes that a smartphone application used to detect heart rhythm problems can also tell if someone is having a STEMI heart attack almost with the same accuracy as a standard hospital ECG.

"This application can accelerate the patient's decision to seek care by allowing doctors to take immediate action. Reducing the delay to treatment by up to an average of one hour could reduce the mortality rate by half," said Dr. J. Brent Muhlestein, the study's lead investigator and cardiovascular researcher at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, to Healthline.

The researchers presented their findings this weekend at the 2018 Scientific Session of the American Heart Association in Chicago.

In this study, 204 patients with chest pain received a standard 12-lead ECG and one ECG through a smartphone with the AliveCor application using a special two-wire accessory.

According to Muhlestein, heart attacks occur in different parts of the heart. A typical ECG has 12 wires and each looks at a different area.

To approximate the same level of accuracy with the AliveCor application, the two wires are moved around the body to examine all 12 parts.

The researchers found that the ECG application with the two-wire accessory could accurately diagnose a STEMI heart attack compared to the traditional ECG.

"The application can record an ECG wherever you are and send it to the cloud where it can be immediately reviewed by a cardiologist," Muhlestein said.

Some heart attacks result from an artery blocked by 80 to 90 percent.

Muhlestein says that a STEMI heart attack occurs when one of the main arteries of the heart is completely blocked.

"There is no flow of blood going to the part of the heart powered by that artery. Without oxygen, the blocked part of the heart will begin to die, "he said.

Symptoms of a STEMI heart attack may include chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and nausea.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of all heart attack deaths occur outside the hospital.

This means that many people who have a heart attack do not recognize the warning signs.

"If someone feels chest pain and has never had chest pain before, you may think it's just a bug or gas, and they do not go to the emergency room," Muhlestein said in a press release.

Every minute lost before treatment means the death of more cardiac cells.

"Once the heart tissue is dead, it does not grow back," Muhlestein warned.

There is a direct relationship between the amount of time an artery is blocked and the chances of survival.

Cardiologists say "time is muscle" to express the importance of getting treatment as quickly as possible.

Muhlestein said with this app: "If you suspect someone is having a heart attack, it may just be a matter of taking out your smartphone and following the on-screen instructions to find out."

For a STEMI heart attack, a catheter with a balloon at the tip is inserted into the patient's blocked artery and inflated to restore blood flow by flattening the plaque against the artery wall.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), one of the quality measures for STEMI care is the "balloon" time or the time it takes to successfully reopen a blocked artery.

The AHA recommends that this action occur in less than 90 minutes.

The watch begins when the patient arrives and stops when the balloon is inflated in the hospital cardiac catheterization laboratory.

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Image courtesy of AliveCor

It's not just smartphones.

The new AppleWatch Series 4 smartwatch also features a built-in ECG.

It can tell if your heart is beating normally or if there are signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib), or irregular heartbeats that can lead to serious health complications such as blood clots, stroke or heart failure.

Unlike conventional medical devices, smart device-based applications are inexpensive and easily accessible, even in developing countries where access to medical equipment may be limited.

"We'll be careful to use this technology appropriately. I can imagine, if used improperly, that it will create a lot of paranoid patients flooding our emergency rooms, but I think we can work it out," Muhlestein said.

"The opportunity to collect data on patients not only when they arrive at a clinic or emergency room, but even on a daily basis, can result in much better results," he added.

A recent study found that a smartphone application currently used to diagnose heart rhythm problems can also be used to find out if someone is having a heart attack.

This technology can accelerate treatment, reducing costs and improving access to medical care, even in developing countries.

Smart devices are becoming an increasingly important way of accelerating the diagnosis of serious medical conditions.


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