SMARTPHONES have become so technologically advanced they can now detect if a person is at risk of suffering a stroke.
The AliveCor Heart Monitor for smartphones, developed by researchers at Sydney University, has been found to be an accurate and cost-effective way of detecting previously undiagnosed atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rhythm), a major cause of stroke.
The monitor works by linking a specially designed single-lead ECG case, with a free downloadable smartphone app, to produce a digital iECG readout of heart rhythm on the phone's screen.
The ECG readout is automatically sent to a secure cloud server, which a medical specialist can access and review remotely.
Pharmacists across Sydney screened 1000 adults aged over 65 during a trial of the AliveCor Heart Monitor last year, detecting atrial fibrillation in 15 people, or 1.5% of people tested.
"This groundbreaking device, now available in Australia, could save lives," Lismore cardiologist Dr Adam Blenkhorn said.
"If people are 60 and above, and have got a phone that can check their heart rhythm each day to detect whether they have got atrial fibrillation or not, would be fantastic," he said.
"A lot of people have atrial fibrillation without any symptoms.
"The first time it is detected is when they are in hospital being assessed for a stroke."
The device has the potential to replace traditional heart monitors, Dr Blenkhorn said, which are four times the size of a smartphone, and have to be worn for a day at a time.
"Another big group of people that would really benefit from this are people who have already had a stroke, but have not been found to have atrial fibrillation."
"Research has shown within that group, over the next year after a stroke, 30% will get atrial fibrillation."
Dr Blenkhorn advised any person considering buying and using the heart monitor to consult with their doctor first.