AI could help to spot heart abnormalities

A new way of identifying a cause of the heart to beat irregularly has been discovered by artificial intelligence.

Atrial fibrillation is a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate. It affects one million people in the UK and increases the risk of stroke and long-term heart problems.

Computer modelling at the Mayo Clinic in the United States might have identified signs that there may have been previous abnormalities with the heart’s rhythm.

Although researchers have stated that it is still early days, they believe the system could lead to earlier and easier detection of the problem, which could ensure patients get the right treatment, ultimately saving lives.

The findings were published in The Lancet.


What are the symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation?

  • Noticeable heart palpitations – the heart will feel like its pounding, fluttering or beating irregularly.
  • Your heart may beat very fast – (considerably higher than 100 beats per minute)
  • You can work out your heart rate by checking the pulse in your neck or wrist.
  • Other symptoms include tiredness and being less able to exercise, breathlessness, feeling faint or light-headed and chest pain.
  • The way the heart beats in atrial fibrillation reduces the heart’s performance and efficiency.
  • This can lead to low blood pressure and heart failure.
  • Sometimes atrial fibrillation does not cause any symptoms and people who suffer can be completely unaware that their heart rate is irregular.

Source: NHS England


Dr Paul Friedman, from the Mayo Clinic, said that it showed real potential:

“It is like looking at the ocean now and being able to tell that there were big waves yesterday.”

Further tests will now be needed to see if this could be deployed on the front-line.

Professor Tim Chico, an expert in cardiology at the University of Sheffield, said:

“This AI-based approach could provide a revolutionary advance, although it’s important to note that this research is still in the early stages and we need to see replicated results, and how the algorithm responds when tested on the general population.”


Text References

BBC News. (2019). AI may help to spot heart problems. Accessible: Last Accessed: 6 August 2019.

NHS. (2019). Atrial fibrillation. Accessible: Last Accessed: 7 August 2019.