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Apple Watch KardiaBand can detect high potassium levels without a needle

By Cal Jeffrey · 6 replies
Mar 12, 2018
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  1. AliveCor’s KardiaBand is a watchband designed for the Apple Watch that can read the electrical activity of the heart and produce an electrocardiogram (EKG). The software can then detect irregular heart patterns, particularly atrial fibrillation, more commonly known as AFib.

    The device has already sought and received FDA approval for this use, but yesterday AliveCor presented a study done in cooperation with the Mayo Clinic that shows that the watchband may also be able to detect a condition called hyperkalemia.

    Hyperkalemia happens when there is too much potassium in the bloodstream. This condition can be caused by dehydration but is also common in diabetic patients and those with chronic kidney disease. Left unchecked it can lead to heart and kidney failure.

    Hyperkalemia has no readily apparent symptoms and previously was only detectable via a blood test. However, AliveCor CEO Vic Gundotra speaking at the American College of Cardiology conference revealed research showing the KardiaBand could efficiently detect hyperkalemia without a needle or blood sample.

    It works because high levels of potassium affect the electrical activity in the body. This modified electrical pattern can be seen in an EKG. The Mayo Clinic analyzed “two million EKGs linked to 4 million potassium values, which were collected over 23 years.” This dataset was then used to create an AI that could analyze a live EKG and detect hyperkalemia.

    To do this, they fed some of the data into the AI that showed positive signs of high potassium. From there the AI was able to “learn” to spot patterns in heart rhythms. Once the program was fully “trained” researchers tested it to see if it could diagnose the problem using a different set of data. The results proved to be 90-94 percent accurate.

    Previous research had been done to diagnose hyperkalemia through EKGs, but had relied on human interpretation and was not accurate enough to warrant further study. The patterns associated with the condition are very subtle and hard for a human to detect, but it seems to be a relatively trivial matter for an AI to handle.

    The FDA has not cleared the device for use in detecting hyperkalemia yet. Gundotra says it needs much more testing before the company will present it to the Food and Drug Administration for approval. In the meantime, the company will be conducting more research and eventually clinical trials.

    Permalink to story.

  2. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 4,246   +2,719

    I'm not a medic, but is level of potassium the only precursor to changes in electrical activity of the body?

    Sounds like what it really shows can be characterized as the best guess,....at best.
  3. mrjgriffin

    mrjgriffin TS Evangelist Posts: 349   +163

    High potassium.....make one that detects high blood sugar.....I'm a diabetic who's allergic to bananas so I could literally not care any less about this lol.
  4. enemys

    enemys TS Maniac Posts: 173   +170

    No, it's not, but apparently the changes it introduces are characteristic and repeatable enough to be recognized by software.

    Great. If you care so little, why even bother yourself with commenting it?
  5. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 4,866   +3,311

    The use of these specialty functions is very promising but from what I have read, the costs are excessive, playing on the fears of the users. Make a good watch with the various monitoring systems which can be easily checked for calibration at home and price it under $200 and you'll have a winner, especially if it can be checked on a wide variety of devices and not just one particular brand.
  6. "Electrolytes are minerals, such as sodium and potassium, that are found in the body. They keep your body's fluids in balance and help keep your body working normally, including your heart rhythm, muscle contraction, and brain function."
    I'm no physiologist, but I know neurons (nerve cells) rely on the balance between these minerals in and out of the cell to either stay at rest or electrically 'fire'. These ions are shuttled in and out of a neuron until a potential difference (voltage) is created, when it reaches a certain level, the cell 'fires' the charge goes through the length of the neurons to where the nerve hits a synapse (space between neurons). There the neurotransmitters are released in response to the charge. The next neuron may, or may not 'fire' in response to the neurotransmitters.
    Potassium (K+), chloride (Cl-), sodium (Na+), calcium (Ca2+), magnesium (Mg2+), hydrogen phosphate (HPO4 2−), and hydrogen carbonate (HCO 3−) are the main ones.
    "Both muscle tissue and neurons are considered electric tissues of the body. Muscles and neurons are activated by electrolyte activity between the extracellular fluid or interstitial fluid, and intracellular fluid. Electrolytes may enter or leave the cell membrane through specialized protein structures embedded in the plasma membrane called "ion channels". For example, muscle contraction is dependent upon the presence of calcium (Ca2+), sodium (Na+), and potassium (K+). Without sufficient levels of these key electrolytes, muscle weakness or severe muscle contractions may occur."
    Not the clearest but I hope it helps
  7. Jennie Stone

    Jennie Stone TS Rookie

    I have high potassium and have experienced Hyperkalemia when my potassium reached 8.3 and I was in Intensive Care for a week. This watch band with its ability to show my potassium numbers without needles every two months sounds like a dream come true. I would even like to participate in trials for this if needed.

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