Comprehensive Chinese Smartwatch Study Verifies Afib Detection Capabilities

A monumental screening study conducted in China over a four-year period on more than 2.8 million participants has produced a pivotal determination for the future of medtech. The long-term cardiac health project, funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, found that consumer smartwatches are both effective and accurate in detecting signs of abnormal heart rhythm when used in everyday life.

“With the global surge of wearable technology for afib screening, especially in the challenging setting of the COVID-19 pandemic, the present study provides a possible solution to help people identify possible signs of afib and get diagnosed and treated earlier,” said Dr. Yutao Guo, a professor of internal medicine at Chinese PLA General Hospital. Guo, the lead author of the study, discussed the results at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology.

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Researchers used Huawei devices fitted with photoplethysmography sensors to ascertain a free downloadable app’s capacity for tracking an individual’s pulse as well as issuing alerts for falling out of sync—a key indicator of atrial fibrillation, which elevates risk of stroke and heart failure if left untreated. The light-based sensors common to Huawei devices can also be found in Fitbits and Apple Watches, among other smart wearables.

Following their smartwatch’s alert for potential afib detection, 93.8% of the study’s participants confirmed afib diagnosis through standard diagnostic tools such as 24-hour Holter heart recorder monitoring and electrocardiograms.