Hospital or clinical-grade devices have electrodes and wire leads that a healthcare professional tapes to different parts of your body (like your chest, arms, and legs). An electrocardiograph machine then records and displays a trace on a screen. The tracing can detect changes in your heart rhythm or rate that may indicate disease. It’s important to tell the technician if you have allergies, as some adhesives can be uncomfortable. You will also need to remove your upper clothing for this test, as the electrodes must stick closely to your skin to measure your heart rhythm. You will be able to re-dress after the test.
A growing number of wearable electronics are being designed to monitor your heart health. These devices are typically designed to work with smartphone applications and allow you to store and share your results with your doctor. However, it’s important to note that these devices are not regulated by the FDA and do not have the same level of accuracy as a standard 12-lead ecg device. The accuracy of these devices depends on a number of factors including their sensitivity and specificity, which vary from device to device.
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In one study funded by Apple, an ECG app on the Apple Watch detected abnormal pulse signals in 34% of participants, indicating that these devices can help with early detection of atrial fibrillation. This can reduce the number of unnecessary readmissions to hospitals for patients with arrhythmias, freeing up rooms for other patients in crowded hospital settings.