Atrial fibrillation (AF), especially paroxysmal one, is a common variety of heart rhythm disorder, is often difficult to diagnose because symptoms pointing to its existence appear randomly and infrequently. External and implantable heart monitors exist for the very purpose of spotting the presence of AFib, but they can be expensive and not optimal for many patients.
Cardiio, an MIT spinoff, has developed an app, that’s been available for a few years now, that uses a smartphone’s camera to measure heart rate by noticing slight changes in one’s skin tone. Now, the same firm has developed the capability to detect atrial fibrillation, with reasonable accuracy, also using the smartphone’s camera. The new app, called Cardiio Rhythm, is currently only available to researches that are interested in studying its potential. The company hopes that after validation, the app will soon be appearing in your local app store, offering patients another opportunity to choose to self-diagnose themselves.
The app can look at either one’s face from a distance, or at the finger’s skin when it is placed right over the camera. The app estimates the amount of blood pumped by every heartbeat from the slight differences in skin tone and color that occur. When AF is occurring, the amount of blood pumped through the system varies, providing a signature that the condition is present.
So far the app has been tested in two studies at the University of Hong Kong and The Chinese University of Hong Kong. In one, in which 85 patients were screened using both the app and conventional ECG, the app showed a remarkable 95% match with the ECG results. In a larger study of over 1,000 patients, the app demonstrated similar capability of identifying who has an elevated risk of presenting with AF.