24 March 2020
Approximately 6 million Americans are living with atrial fibrillation (AFib), with this number forecasted to double to 12.1 million by the year 2030.1 AFib is an irregular heartbeat that may cause stroke, heart failure and sudden cardiac death if left untreated.
It's the most common type of irregular heart rhythm that’s responsible for 15-20% (105,000-140,000) of strokes in the U.S. per year.2 In fact, AFib patients are five times more likely to experience a stroke with 35% of all AFib patients having a stroke at some point during their lifetime.2
It’s imperative that AFib is detected early on before life-threatening complications arise. Doctors and patients need to work together to identify key signs of AFib to efficiently and effectively diagnose and treat this condition. Fortunately, ECG technologies have been developed to help detect AFib before it’s too late.
Several methods can be utilized to detect arrhythmias. These tests range from the use of external continuous ECG monitors, such as Holter monitors, to more invasive procedures.
Holter monitor: A Holter monitor is a small, portable, continuous ambulatory ECG monitor.3 A Holter monitor can record 24 hours or more of ECG data.3 Prolonged data collection allows physicians to obtain a comprehensive view of the heart’s activity throughout various everyday activities.3
Event monitor: An event, or transtelephonic, monitor can track ECG activity for up to two months and can be particularly useful for patients with suspected arrhythmias that occur infrequently or pass quickly.3 A transtelephonic monitor can attach via bracelets, finger clips or patches worn under the arm, and transmits data directly to the physician for review.3
Stress test: A stress test can help diagnose individuals who may have an exercise-induced arrhythmia. During a stress test, the patient will exercise on a treadmill or stationary bike while ECG data is collected.3
Tilt-table test: A tilt-table test, or tilt test, is used to detect potential arrhythmias in patients experiencing fainting spells. Data obtained during this test can show how the heart reacts to changing positions from lying down to standing up.3
Electrophysiologic testing: Electrophysiologic testing, or EP study, is performed under local anesthesia and can reveal arrhythmias as well as latent tachycardia (fast heart rate) or bradycardia (slow heart rate).3 During electrophysiologic testing, temporary electrode catheters are threaded through peripheral veins or arteries into the heart's atria, ventricles or both via fluoroscope.3 Electrode catheters record the heart’s electrical signals and pathways during each heartbeat.3
Esophageal electrophysiologic procedure: Esophageal electrophysiologic procedure collects data through a catheter that is inserted into the esophagus through the nostril.3 The catheter’s lead performs an electrocardiogram, which may yield more accurate results than a traditional electrocardiogram due to its proximity to the heart.3
Echocardiogram: An echocardiogram can provide valuable information about a heart with arrhythmia by revealing a patient’s heart’s size, structure and motion using ultrasound waves.3
Recently, a new technology has been developed to help facilitate arrhythmia detection. The TAGecg® Wearable ECG Sensor is a wearable continuous ECG sensor that can record ECG data for up to seven days. The TAGecg sensor’s discreet size, along with its wireless and water-resistant structure, allows patients to continue their normal activities, providing physicians a convenient way to test and screen for arrhythmias. As a result, the TAGecg sensor can help reduce the time it takes to diagnose AFib, including asymptomatic AFib.
Research supports early detection of AFib and other cardiac arrhythmias. Recent studies compared the detection of arrhythmia events over the total device wear time or longer than 7 to 8 days. The data obtained concluded that long-term, lead-free continuous ambulatory ECG monitoring for up to 8 days can provide increased diagnostic yield and arrhythmia detection due to extended device wear time as well as improved patient compliance. Further findings show that ambulatory ECG monitoring for up to 8 days is more likely to detect important intermittent cardiac arrhythmias such as asymptomatic AFib.4,5
By 2050, it’s projected that AFib will affect more than 15.9 million people with a price tag of $26 billion per year.2 The detection of AFib is crucial. If left untreated, this heart condition can have life-threatening complications such as stroke, heart failure and more. To support early detection, ECG technologies have been developed to help reduce the time it takes to diagnose arrhythmias and improve the patient experience.
1. Cleveland Clinic. AHA Awards Cleveland Clinic $3.7 Million for Atrial Fibrillation Research. https://newsroom.clevelandclinic.org/2018/06/13/aha-awards-cleveland-clinic-3-7-million-for-atrial-fibrillation-research/. Accessed March 7, 2019.
3. American Heart Association. Common Tests for Arrhythmia. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/arrhythmia/symptoms-diagnosis--monitoring-of-arrhythmia/common-tests-for-arrhythmia. Accessed January 9, 2019.