Eko, a maker of high-end digital stethoscopes, has just received the first FDA clearance for its devices to use AI algorithms to automatically detect atrial fibrillation (AFib) and heart murmurs. Using this capability, primary care physicians, who are not nearly as extensively trained at spotting heart issues, will be able to identify potential cases of AFib, as well as vulvular and structural heart diseases, with an accuracy similar to seasoned cardiologists.
The physician’s workflow remains practically the same as using a conventional stethoscope, except that Eko’s devices, which include a built-in single-lead ECG monitor, send their readings to a paired smartphone that displays what Eko’s AI thinks about the data.
“Our vision since day one has been to build seamless technology that helps providers more accurately detect heart disease, the leading killer in the world, by putting the ears of a cardiologist in any clinician’s stethoscope,” said Connor Landgraf, Eko’s Co-Founder and CEO, in the announcement. “Eko’s new ability to alert a provider to the presence of a heart murmur or atrial fibrillation during the standard physical exam brings that vision to life.”
According to Eko, its AI algorithms were nearly perfect at detecting AFib and about 87% accurate when identifying suspect heart murmurs, in clinical studies. Both of these capabilities are quite a bit better than your average primary care doc, so Eko’s devices may provide an early warning system for a variety of cardiac conditions.
Moreover, the new algorithms are able to identify abnormally fast or slow heart rates (tachycardia and bradycardia) and QRS duration.
“Two centuries after its invention, the stethoscope is still the front line tool to detect cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Patrick McCarthy, Executive Director of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Medicine and member of Eko’s Scientific Advisory Board, in the announcement. “Eko’s development of artificial intelligence algorithms to help clinicians better interpret sounds, identify arrhythmias and detect heart murmurs during a physical exam is going to make a huge difference in our ability to care for patients.”
Here’s a quick demo of the simultaneous AI analysis of ECG and murmur sounds during a conventional auscultation:
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