Technology is constantly evolving around us. The most spectacular signs of its evolution are the ones in the entertainment industry – think VR and AR, high-definition music and video, and their likes. The most important innovations are not flashy and spectacular but they are truly useful in everyday life. They are sensors that monitor our vital signs, smartphone apps that detect depression and other mental issues, and help us overcome them – these are the truly useful things technology has given us in the last decade. And sometimes, these may become true life-savers – like in the case below.

Apple’s ECG sensor has already saved a life

One of the innovations presented with splendor by Apple this year was the ECG sensor built into their smartwatch. The Apple Watch Series 4 has shown that the Cupertino giant tries to shift its wearable technology from a luxury item toward a health monitor, so it was the first to introduce this innovative sensor. The presentation focused on its potentially life-saving nature and the facts have shown that this was not exaggerated on their side: less than a week after the launch of the ECG feature in Europe, it has already been credited with potentially saving a life. Apple first activated the feature in Europe and Hong Kong. The new sensor in the smartwatch is by no means perfect but it has a great track record in detecting a normal heart rate as well as atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is the abnormal heart rhythm characterized by a rapid and irregular beating of the atria that is relatively hard to detect in time because of its intermittent nature. In time, it becomes more frequent, possibly even constant in time. Its symptoms (if any) may include heart palpitations, fainting, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, or chest pain, and it is associated with increased risk of dementia, stroke, and heart failure.

Lives saved

Less than a week after the launch of the feature through the watchOS 5.2 update, a German man has discovered that the atrial fibrillation alarm is constantly blaring on his wrist. Like most, he was skeptical of the accuracy of the signal but went to a doctor to perform a 12-channel ECG. The result confirmed what the watch was saying: the man indeed had atrial fibrillation, a condition previously undetected. The doctor prescribed him beta blockers to prevent the condition from progressing further. This is not the only life potentially saved by this new sensor. Several other reports have surfaced of patients with undetected atrial fibrillation. Since the roll-out of the ECG feature, the Apple Watch has detected AFib in several patients, all of them with a previously undetected condition.

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "Apple Watch: The Lives It Already Saved," in Medicalopedia, May 16, 2019, [Permalink:].