Stanford University research confirms the utility of Apple Watch for identifying arrhythmias in children

Apple Watch Afib History feature

A new paper published this morning by Stanford University researchers in the nature Journal confirms the utility of smart watches for identifying arrhythmias in children.

The researchers demonstrate how the Apple Watch can record arrhythmia events in children, including events not identified on traditionally used ambulatory monitors.

Palpitations and concern for heart rhythm abnormalities are among the most common causes of referral for subspecialty care in pediatric cardiology. Although AFib is very rare in children, the diagnosis and treatment is essentially the same as that of an adult.

Workup of a potential pediatric arrhythmia requires ambulatory cardiac rhythm monitoring and current noninvasive technologies carry important limitations. 

Existing diagnostic options for children include patch rhythm monitors, 30-day event monitors, and 24–48-h Holter monitors, however these options have several disadvantages.

These options may not be long enough to capture a patient’s symptoms due to multiple factors, including a shorter wear time in children compared to adults, skin irritation limiting use, and the often sporadic nature of symptoms.

The Apple Watch on the other hand provides a noninvasive platform that can monitor events which may not be identified by traditional ambulatory monitors and that’s huge!

The research team reviewed the heart electrical recordings of a group of children who submitted recordings obtained from their Apple Watches during moments when they felt as though their heart’s rhythm was abnormal. 

The Apple Watches captured rhythm abnormalities that matched the diagnoses obtained using heart monitors used clinically.Apple watch for Children Heart Health

The team identified 145 electronic-medical-record identifications of Apple Watch, and find arrhythmias confirmed in 41 patients (28%) [mean age 13.8 ± 3.2 years]. The arrythmias include: 36 SVT (88%), 3 VT (7%), 1 heart block (2.5%) and wide 1 complex tachycardia (2.5%). 

This study shows that the use of Apple Watches can enable clinicians to identify abnormalities that many traditional at-home monitoring devices do not detect.

With Apple’s Family Setup, your family member who doesn’t have their own iPhone can use their Apple Watch to do things like make phone calls, send messages, and share their location with you.

The current ECG app is not intended for use by people under 22 years old. The device has only been evaluated for the detection of AFib or normal sinus rhythm and is not intended to detect any other type of arrhythmia.

If and when Apple decides to obtain FDA approval for pediatric use, the Apple Watch will become a powerful health tool for some children.

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Sudz Niel Kar
I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products, have a BS in Computer Science and an MBA specializing in emerging tech, and owned the popular site AppleToolBox. In my day job, I advise Fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation strategies and also consult with numerous digital health startups in an advisory capacity. I'm VERY interested in exploring the digital health and fitness-tech evolution and keeping a close eye on patents, FDA approvals, strategic partnerships, and developments happening in the wearables and digital health sector. When I'm not writing or presenting, I run with my Apple Watch Ultra or Samsung Galaxy Watch and closely monitor my HRV and other recovery metrics.


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