A small study from Italy is the first proof of concept that a smart watch could detect heart attack like a traditional ECG, electrocardiogram.
But, don’t buy one for that purpose, doctors warn. If you have chest pain, call 911 immediately. Smart watches can’t automatically detect a heart attack now and, even if they could, it requires a physician to interpret results.
Nonetheless, the study suggests that emerging smart watch technologies could be helpful in the future.
In the study, the smart watch generated ECGs 93 to 95 percent accurately. It correctly identified different types of heart attack. In healthy people the watch was 90 percent accurate in finding the absence of a heart attack, according to a study in the JAMA cardiology.
Researchers compared standard ECGs and smart watch findings on 81 people who sought care for a possible heart attack at an Italian clinic in 2019.
In the study, physicians (not the patients) held the back of the watch at the wrist and eight other specific locations in the chest and abdomen to capture the needed readings.
Researchers used the latest Apple Watch with recordings uploaded to the latest iPhone.
Recording the heart’s electrical currents dates back to the 1900s when a Dutch physician, Willem Einthoven, invented the first practical ECG, according to the Harvard Heart Letter. He won the Nobel Prize in 1924.
Although much different than an ECG, the Apple Watch’s built-in afib detector tool has already been approved for use. It detects the rapid, irregular heart rhythm that suggests the risk of stroke.
Still, questions remain about whether the watch findings will result in a flood of unnecessarily frightened patients, or if the watch readings will even lead to earlier stroke detection, according to the heart letter.