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Apple Watch does not detect atrial fibrillation in 30% to 60% of cases, research shows

Recurso de eletrocardiograma (ECG) no Apple Watch Series 4

With each new version of Apple Watch, the Apple intensifies the direction of the clock facing the Cheers and disease prevention. In this sense, one of the most important news came in the Apple Watch Series 4, with the electrocardiogram feature capable of detecting cases of atrial fibrillation (atrial fibrillation, or AFib) – type of cardiac arrhythmia that may be the harbinger of more serious events, such as a stroke – in users.

A new study, however, has shown that the accuracy of Apple’s smartwatch may be below ideal levels. Brought by Fortune, the study published by Circulation focused on patients who have recently undergone cardiac surgery – events that enhance cases of atrial fibrillation. Of the 90 cases of AFib detected in the sample, only 34 were reported by the Apple Watch; in other words, almost 60% of cases went unnoticed by the watch.

Of course, this is a sample made up of specific cases (patients in the postoperative period), which may not represent the universality of users who may have (or come to have) cases of atrial fibrillation.

However, another data may illustrate that the Apple Watch is not so accurate in this task: Apple itself claims that the watch is not able to detect AFib at heart rates above 120 beats per minute. At the same time, a study by the Mayo Clinic shows that about 33% of atrial fibrillation cases occur just above 120BPM – that is, in the best of cases, one third of AFib cases will not be detected by Watch.

It is worth noting that this is not a surprise or a novelty: Apple itself has been stating, since the launch of the Apple Watch Series 4, that the device should not be seen as a substitute for medical examinations and evaluations – it constitutes, in In fact, an “additional” that can alert you of possible worrying conditions, but nothing more.

However, we know that, in practice, these Apple warnings end up not reaching the eyes and ears of most consumers: most of us, after all, do not read the letters in the instruction manuals or the terms and conditions of use of our gadgets. Therefore, there is a concern among doctors and professionals in the field that the Apple Watch creates a false sense of security among its users – a thought of the type “well, if my Watch has not warned you, it means that I am healthy and do not need to do my periodic exams ”. When the AFib detection rate is between 40% and 70%, this is not a good idea.

Obviously, there is another way to analyze the situation: some detection is better than no detection, and having a device on your wrist that can detect signs of a potentially dangerous condition is better than having nothing. The problem, of course, is to rely on this device only – which is why, even if your Apple Watch shows that your body is in perfect condition, you should never stop visiting a doctor periodically.


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via The Loop