Saving A Life After Heart Attack: There Is An iPhone
App for That
Inexpensive smartphone app could help save lives by
faster diagnosis, treatment for deadliest heart attacks
May 17, 2013 ― An experimental, inexpensive iPhone
application transmitted diagnostic heart images faster and more reliably
than emailing photo images, according to a research study presented at
the American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research
Scientific Sessions 2013.
The app could help save lives by speeding treatment
for the deadliest type of heart attack known as
(ST segment elevation myocardial infarction), in which a clot blocks
blood flow to the heart.
A critical step in prompt, effective STEMI
treatment is rapid transmission of an
(ECG) image from emergency medical personnel on site with a patient
directly to the hospital to be viewed by a doctor. The ECG may show
evidence of a heart attack, allowing doctors to prepare for immediate
treatment upon the patient’s arrival.
Traditionally, ECG images are sent through
specialized commercial systems. Some hospitals use cell phones to take
photos of ECGs, which require large files to maintain clarity and can be
slow and unreliable, particularly in signal-limited environments.
“Simple cellular technology can save lives,” said
David R. Burt, M.D., the study’s lead author and an associate professor
of emergency medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine
in Charlottesville. “This system may make pre-hospital ECG transmission
a more inexpensive and reliable option. That can translate to faster
treatment and saved lives.”
In this study:
● iPhone images were transmitted in 4-6 seconds,
compared to 38-114 seconds for actual-size and 17-48 seconds to send a
large-size e-mail image.
● The app’s failure rate at 120 seconds was less
than 0.5 percent, compared to a 3 percent to 71 percent e-mail failure
Researchers designed the app to take a photo of the
ECG, center and reduce its size, while maintaining as much clarity as
They tested the app more than 1,500 times with
Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon in an urban area. The researchers are
currently testing the app in rural areas with limited cell-phone access
and in comparison with commercial proprietary systems.
“In many places, it may be feasible to transmit
vital ECGs over commercial cell-phone networks, saving money, and
allowing areas without commercial ECG transmission systems to still
connect pre-hospital emergency medical services with STEMI treatment
centers,” Burt said.
Each year in the United States, nearly a quarter of
a million people experience STEMI. Survival depends upon immediate
treatment to restore blood flow. Yet many patients don’t make it to the
hospital in time.
The American Heart Association recommends surgical
treatment within 90 minutes of hospital arrival, or clot-busting
medication within 30 minutes. The association initiated a national
system of treatment and referral centers known as
to help ensure standard of care.
Co-authors are Richard Zhang; Steven Fowler; Jonni
Seal; and Stephen D. Patek, Ph.D.
The University of Virginia Wireless Internet Center
for Advanced Technology funded the study. Additional disclosures are on
Follow news from the Quality of Care and Outcomes
Research Scientific Sessions 2013 via Twitter: @HeartNews; #QCOR13.
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