New Apple Watch helps monitor heart

Mon, Sep 17, 2018

The Apple Watch’s forthcoming upgrade may be good news for people who have heart conditions and irregular heart rates.


Apple announced recently that the Apple Watch Series 4, has an electrocardiogram sensor which can monitor for abnormal heart issues.


It’s one of the first over-the-counter devices in the United States that allows people to do an electrocardiogram, or ECG or EKG. The watch received FDA clearance, meaning the watch functions similarly to other medically-approved devices.


An ECG measures the electrical activity of the heartbeat. Essentially, it’s monitoring the heart’s rhythm, rather than the beats per minute, by recording the electric activity of your heart. The ECG can help detect heart issues, such as poor blood flow, a heart attack, or thickened heart muscle.


“This may prove to be a very useful tool for monitoring arrhythmias, or irregular beating of the heart. However, exactly how it should be used for the individual patient has to be determined,” says Dr. Imran Sheikh, a cardiac electrophysiologist with Aurora BayCare Medical Center. “In a select group of patients being evaluated for arrhythmia or palpitations, the Apple Watch will likely serve as a screening tool to associate symptoms with arrhythmia and/or simply the existence of arrhythmia.”


To use the feature, users put their finger on the device’s home button, or digital crown. The watch has electrodes on the back of the watch and on the digital crown that measure your heart’s electric pulses. By holding your finger on the crown, the sensors will perform an ECG.


The process takes about 30 seconds and the user then receives a heart rhythm classification. If your heart rhythm is normal, it’s classified as “sinus” rhythm. The watch also classifies irregular rhythms, such as atrial fibrillation, or AFib. If you receive an AFib classification, you’ll be prompted to see your doctor.


The device is not meant to replace a doctor. Users can take the ECG, but if it shows any type of abnormal results, it’s recommended you see your doctor.


“Important issues regarding the watch include cost of the device, technology savviness of the individual patient, and accuracy of the watch to detect arrhythmia,” Sheikh says. “The California study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association described the watch's accuracy as ‘moderate’ and concluded that additional studies are needed. It is not recommended to randomly screen asymptomatic patients for arrhythmia with ECGs, likewise, recommending mass arrhythmia monitoring with a watch would also be discouraged.”


The Apple Watch Series 4 can’t diagnose you with a medical condition. It’s not a replacement for regular medical tests or doctor’s appointments.


Rather, it can alert you to previously unknown issues and detect an abnormality before it becomes a life-threatening condition.


Dr. Imran Sheikh is a cardiac electrophysiologist with Aurora BayCare Medical Center. He sees patients in Green Bay and Marinette.




About BayCare Clinic

BayCare Clinic,, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in Northeast Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. With its 100-plus physicians, BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, serving clinical locations in 13 regional communities. Based in Green Bay, Wis., BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center.


About Aurora BayCare Medical Center

Aurora BayCare Medical Center is a 167-bed, full-service tertiary care hospital located at 2845 Greenbrier Road on Green Bay’s east side. It opened in September 2001 as a joint venture of Aurora Health Care and BayCare Clinic.  Aurora BayCare is committed to creating a better way to provide high quality tertiary healthcare, the latest in medical technology and superior service.

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BayCare Clinic,, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, with more than 100 physicians serving in 16 area communities. BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center, a 167-bed, full-service hospital. Follow BayCare Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.