Mayo Clinic uses AI and Apple Watch to detect weak heart pump

ECG app for Apple Watch
ECG app for Apple Watch (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • Researchers at the Mayo Clinic used AI and an Apple Watch to detect a weak heart pump.
  • The researchers developed an algorithm that used the signal from an Apple Watch ECG to detect the condition.
  • The study's accuracy was "as good as or slightly better than a medical treadmill test."

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic developed an algorithm that, using the ECG from an Apple Watch, could identify patients with a weak heart pump.

In a post on the Mayo Clinic website, researchers announced the results of the study which was also presented at the Heart Rhythm Society conference on Sunday, May 1.

Paul Friedman, M.D., chair of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, said that researchers were able to use AI and the ECG signal from the Apple Watch rather than "an expensive, sophisticated imaging test, such as an echocardiogram, CT scan or MRI."

"Left ventricular dysfunction — a weak heart pump — afflicts 2% to 3% of people globally and up to 9% of people over age 60. It may have no symptoms, or be associated with shortness of breath, leg swelling or racing heart beats. What is important is that once we know a weak heart pump is present, there are many lifesaving and symptom-preventing treatments available. It is absolutely remarkable that AI transforms a consumer watch ECG signal into a detector of this condition, which would normally require an expensive, sophisticated imaging test, such as an echocardiogram, CT scan or MRI."

You can watch Dr. Paul Friedman discuss the technology on YouTube below:

Itzhak Zachi Attia, Ph.D. lead the effort to use AI in order to adapt the Apple Watch's ECG signal into something that could be used to detect the medical condition. According to the report, participants in the study securely transmitted 125,610 ECGs over the course of the six-month study. Attia says that the accuracy of their data is "as good as or slightly better than a medical treadmill test."

"Approximately 420 patients had a watch ECG recorded within 30 days of a clinically ordered echocardiogram, or ultrasound of the heart, a standard test to measure pump strength. We took advantage of those data to see whether we could identify a weak heart pump with AI analysis of the watch ECG. While our data are early, the test had an area under the curve of 0.88, meaning it is as good as or slightly better than a medical treadmill test. AI analysis of the watch ECG is a powerful test to identify a weak heart pump."

Dr. Friedman says that the next step will be to expand the study internationally. It's currently unclear if such a feature will eventually be built into the Apple Watch's Health app.

If you're looking to monitor your heart outside of Apple Watch's built-in features, check out our list of the Best external heart rate monitors for iPhone and Apple Watch 2022.

Joe Wituschek

Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.