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A group of researchers successfully detected circulatory standstill, a condition similar to cardiac arrest, using a smartwatch. They demonstrated this in patients undergoing heart surgery when blood circulation is stopped as part of the operation practice.

Why this is important

In the Netherlands, over 1.5 million people suffer from heart disease. Poor heart health conditions can also result in cardiac attacks. The Radboud University smartwatch detects failures, and in the future, researchers aim to make it alert emergency services.

The Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre doctors conducted the DETECT-1 study on 291 patients. During an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) placement, a blood circulation stop is induced, for instance. The ICD checks for regular heartbeats and helps when heart activity is lost. Following the implantation, cardiologists test whether the device intervenes during a heart rhythm disorder. The smartwatch successfully detected cardiac arrest in nearly all patients.

The smartwatch – the Cardiowatch from Corsano Health – uses so-called PPG sensors, which utilize light to measure whether there is reduced blood flow in the smallest blood vessels in the skin. This occurs when the circulation stops due to a cardiac arrest. In addition, the researchers developed special software to detect when the circulation stops. 

Further testing in real-life settings

In further research, the investigators will assess whether this technique is reliable in everyday life. During surgery, patients lie still, but in daily life, people move. For this follow-up project, the researchers are still looking for healthy volunteers, ICD recipients, and other heart patients willing to participate. Interested individuals can sign up at www.detect-study.com.

Solution needed for unwitnessed cardiac arrest

The DETECT study aims to develop a smartwatch that can automatically detect cardiac arrest and alert emergency services. Thirty percent of the people who experience cardiac arrest are alone. In such cases, no witnesses are available to provide or call for help, and the survival chances are very low. In case of a false alarm for cardiac arrest, individuals will be able to cancel a call to emergency services. The researchers will also test this cancel button in the coming period.