New studies show that mobile health (mHealth) devices could aid in the screening and detection of atrial fibrillation (AF) by using photoplethysmography (PPG) technology.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool, UK and Chinese PLA General Hospital, Beijing led the study.

AF is a common heart disorder characterised by irregular and abnormally fast heart rate. Patients are at a higher risk of stroke, heart failure, dementia and death.

The condition has a low detection rate as it lacks visible symptoms. It is also associated with inadequate management due to non-adherence.

mHealth devices such as mobile phones, fitness trackers and smartwatches are expected to facilitate earlier detection and better management of the disorder.

The devices can leverage PPG, an optical technique that identifies changes in blood volume in the microvascular bed of tissue. Common uses for the technology include non-invasive measurement at the skin surface.

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By GlobalData

In the latest study, researchers evaluated smart devices with PPG technology, in combination with a clinical care AF management pathway, for screening the condition.

A total of 187,912 participants aged above 18 years in China received screening for around seven months using smart wristbands or watches powered by the technology.

When asked to monitor pulse rhythm, 424 participants received a suspected AF notification, while 227 received confirmation from health providers and secondary assessments. Patients who received a diagnosis went on to receive anticoagulation therapy.

Chinese PLA General Hospital associate professor Guo said: “Based on our present study, continuous home-monitoring with smart device based PPG technology could be a feasible, cost-effective approach for AF screening.

“There were 95% patients following entry into a programme of integrated AF care and approximately 80% of high-risk patients were successfully anticoagulated. This would help efforts at screening and detection of AF, as well as early interventions to reduce stroke and other AF-related complications.”

The study has been published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).