It’s premature for health professionals to support widespread adoption of wearables and handheld ECG devices for atrial fibrillation (AF) screening, and certainly the evidence is not there to indicate the popular technology can help prevent stroke, says the AF Screen International Collaboration in their review published today in Circulation
The authors, including PHRI Senior Scientist Jeff Healey (who is a cofounder of AF SCREEN) note in their paper, “Consumer-led screening for atrial fibrillation: Frontier review of the AF-SCREEN International Collaboration” that:
“Although there are numerous commercially available devices directly marketed to consumers for AF monitoring and identification of unrecognized AF, healthcare professional–led randomized controlled studies using multiple ECG recordings or continuous ECG monitoring to detect AF have failed to demonstrate a significant reduction in stroke.”
The same issue of Circulation published “Detection of atrial fibrillation in a large population using wearable devices: The Fitbit heart study” by Steven Lubitz, MGH, et al on the prospective remote clinical trial involved about 45,000 people 22 years and older.
“The Fitbit heart study was somewhat reserved in its conclusions” on wearables helping to identify undiagnosed AF, notes the AF SCREEN team, adding that:
“Our review did really highlight the complexities and uncertainties about the widespread promotion of AF screening by manufacturers marketing directly to consumers, and emphasized the caveats around its adoption, while recognizing the potential for consumer-facing devices to be part of an integrated management approach.
AF SCREEN collaborators also “highlighted the different approach that would be needed for any AF found, given the much younger demographic and low stroke risk of the majority of users of wearable devices for AF screening.”