Global Health Asia-Pacific Issue 2 | 2023 - Page 41

Wearable technology could interfere with heart devices

Experts call for more research to reduce potential risks for patients

Fitness wearables are often hailed as revolutionary for their ability to track people ’ s health in real time and over long stretches , but one concern is that some could also disrupt cardiac implantable electronic devices ( CIE� ), as shown by a recent study published in Heart Rhythm .

Perhaps the most popular fitness wearable globally , smart watches have generated the highest level of electrical interference with the functioning of lifesaving CIE�s .
“ Our results indicate that these consumer electronic devices could interfere in patients with CIE�s , � wrote the study authors . �The present findings do not recommend the use of these devices in this population due to potential interference . �
CIE�s include pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators ( IC� ) and mostly use electric pulses to keep the heart beat normal in people with conditions affecting heart rhythm . Wearables based on bioimpedance sensing technology , like smart watches and rings , also make use of small electric currents to measure many different parameters like body fat , muscle mass , blood pressure , breathing , and heart rates .
�ead researcher �r Benjamin Sanche� of the �niversity of �tah told the Guardian the findings didn ’ t translate into clear risks to patients wearing the tracking devices , although the wearables could lead to pacing interruptions or shocks to the heart , with more research needed to gauge the actual risk .
For instance , pacemakers send electrical impulses to the heart when it ’ s beating too slowly , but their electrical currents may send the wrong input that it ’ s beating normally , disrupting the ability of the devices to fix the rhythm . �We have patients who depend on
pacemakers to live , � �r Benjamin Steinberg , study author and associate professor of medicine at �tah �niversity , said in a press release . �If the pacemaker gets confused by interference , it could stop working during the duration that it is confused . If that interference is for a prolonged time , the patient could pass out or worse . �
Professor James Leiper , associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation told the Guardian : “ As more people wear smartwatches and other devices with body-monitoring technology , it is important to understand any potential interference they may cause with lifesaving medical devices like IC�s and pacemakers . �
Over the last years , wearables have been gaining popularity among fitness buffs to improve health while also being tested as a diagnostic tool by researchers .
A study published last year , for example , showed that smartwatches could help diagnose a weak heart pump ( a form of heart disease ) outside of the clinical setting by allowing people to record their electrocardiogram ( EC� ) data wherever they were and upload them to an AI-powered system to process .
�Currently , we diagnose ventricular dysfunction � a weak heart pump � through an echocardiogram , CT scan or an MRI , but these are expensive , time consuming and at times inaccessible . The ability to diagnose a weak heart pump remotely , from an EC� that a person records using a consumer device , such as a smartwatch , allows a timely identification of this potentially life-threatening disease at massive scale , � �r Paul Friedman , chair of the �epartment of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Mayo Clinic and senior author of the study , said in a press release .
Pacemakers send electrical impulses to the heart when it ’ s beating too slowly , but their electrical currents may send the wrong input that it ’ s beating normally
GlobalHealthAsiaPacific . com ISSUE 2 | 2023