Mayo Clinic and smartphone electrocardiogram maker AliveCor have inked a new partnership focused on the preventive screening of a genetic disorder that can cause sudden cardiac arrest.
Unlike a heart attack, which happens when blood flow to the heart is blocked, cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. The electrical disorder, long QT syndrome, can result in dangerous arrhythmias and sudden cardiac arrest. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, long QT causes the sudden deaths of 3,000 to 4,000 children and young adults in the U.S. each year.
“To prevent this type of sudden death, increased awareness and screening is critical. AliveCor’s patented artificial intelligence technology, algorithms and millions of ECGs, paired with Mayo Clinic’s extensive data and world-leading clinical expertise will mean enhanced safety and decreased risk for many,” said AliveCor CEO Vic Gundotra in a statement.
Emotional stress and strenuous exercise can trigger arrhythmias in people with long QT, but the American Heart Association does not recommend using ECG in the mass screening of student athletes due to cost and logistical constraints.
AliveCor and Mayo Clinic hope to address these hurdles with a screening tool based on the former’s Kardia Mobile system, which is FDA-cleared for the detection of atrial fibrillation. A patient attaches the device to a smartphone and rests his or her fingers on its electrodes to record an ECG. The app will analyze the ECG and tell the patient if the heart rhythm is normal, or if he or she is experiencing an arrhythmia.
A Kardia-based screening tool could be a low-cost, portable solution. Rather than requiring a student to visit a doctor’s office and undergo a 12-lead ECG, multiple students could be screened quickly by a coach using a hand-held device.
While the pair’s initial focus is congenital long QT, a Kardia-based screen could also be useful for acquired long QT, which can be caused by certain medications. One day, pharmacists could use such a tool to screen a patient who has been prescribed a drug that is known to extend the QT interval, Gundotra said.
Last fall, AliveCor and Mayo Clinic teamed up to look for “hidden signals” in ECG data that could have implications for overall health, not just heart health. For example, Mayo Clinic researchers linked high blood potassium levels to discernible changes in ECG readings. This suggests that it could be useful to keep an eye on the ECG readings of kidney failure patients, for whom changes in blood potassium can be dangerous.