Tech-savvy patients eager to monitor their own heart rhythm can use a device that connects to a smartphone app.
In 30 seconds, patients can record an electrocardiogram (EKG) on their smartphones using the Kardia app from AliveCor. Patients touch the record button and then place two fingers from each hand on small sensors positioned near the phone. The app will signal if possible A-fib is detected. The EKG reading can be emailed to the patient’s physician for review. A watchband monitor that works with the Apple Watch also is available.
Kent E. Morris, M.D., says as a diagnostic tool, the app is not as accurate as a medical grade device, but has benefits.
“It does empower patients to take ownership and be more involved in their own health care,” he said. Dr. Morris said one patient who was feeling poorly bought the AliveCor monitor and recorded a strip with a number of premature ventricular contractions, which correlated with some of the symptoms.
“It was something we had not seen before,” Dr. Morris said.
iRhythm offers an FDA-approved, medical-grade patch monitor called Zio. It is prescribed by physicians and designed to be worn for up to 14 days. The device, which resembles an oversized adhesive bandage with a rectangular button in the middle, sticks to the skin just below the left collarbone. Electrodes are embedded in the bandage.
When patients experience an unusual heart rhythm, they press the button in the middle of the Zio patch and make a note in a log book or on Zio’s website about their symptoms and activities at the time.
“Patients really love the Zio monitor because of the convenience of having just the patch and the lack of obtrusive cables attached to it,” said Robert A. Schwartz, M.D., electrophysiologist, Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Heart Rhythm Center.
Zio records all heartbeats, whether or not the button is pressed. When the monitoring period is over, the patient returns the device.
For patients who have infrequent palpitations or syncope, or who have been diagnosed with cryptogenic stroke, the LINQ insertable cardiac monitor is an option. The implantable device is the size of a paper clip and lasts up to three years.
“This long-term monitor improves our ability to diagnose their palpitations, cause for syncope or diagnose cryptogenic stroke associated with atrial fibrillation,” said Tara U. Mudd, APRN, Norton Heart & Vascular Center Heart Rhythm Center.