Artificial intelligence helps detect atrial fibrillation

Researchers in the US have developed a rapid, artificial intelligence (AI)-based test that can identify patients with abnormal heart rhythm, even when it appears normal. This 10-second test for atrial fibrillation could be a significant improvement over current test procedures that can take weeks or even years.

Atrial fibrillation is a common cardiac condition that is estimated to affect between three and six million people in the US alone. The condition is associated with an increased risk of stroke, heart failure, and mortality – but it is underdiagnosed. This is because it can be asymptomatic and the patient’s heart can go in and out of the arrhythmia, making diagnosis tricky. It is sometimes caught on an electrocardiograph (ECG), but often detection requires the use of implantable or wearable monitors to capture infrequent atrial fibrillation episodes over time.

“Atrial fibrillation is an arrhythmia where the atrium, or top chamber of the heart, loses it's coordinated contractual activity and instead quivers because the electrical impulses are changed in the way it course through the atrium,” explains Peter Nose worthy of the Mayo Clinic. “So, the top chamber beats irregularly and it causes the bottom chamber, the ventricle, usually to beat fast and irregularly, which can be bothersome, but most importantly it predisposes people to risk of stroke.”

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