Fitbit Saves Man’s Life


Fitbit Charge

If you know me and this blog then you know I’m fascinated by weird and interesting medical things. Now I know you might be thinking, “Of course! Fitbits help improve physical activity so that’s what saved this man’s life.”

It’s so much better than that!

This case was reported in the September 2016 issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine. It describes the case of a 42 y/o male who was a known seizure patient. Emergency services were called when the man suffered a seizure. Upon EMS arrival, the man was noted to be in a postictal state and also in a rapid heartbeat called atrial fibrillation which they treated with IV medication.

Upon arrival to the emergency department, the man continued to be neurologically intact, though still a little sleepy from his seizure. He continued to have atrial fibrillation and the hospital had a protocol that favored electrical cardioversion for a-fib if the patient had been in the rhythm for under forty-eight hours.

Problem was, this man didn’t have any symptoms with his irregular, fast heartbeat. Someone on the medical team noted him to be wearing a Fitbit— specifically one that monitored heart rate and they retrieved the data from his smart phone. From that information, they could clearly tell when their patient went into the abnormally fast heart rate and were able to treat him safely with electricity.

Using activity trackers that specifically monitor heart rate can be useful in many medical conditions where the patient’s heart rate plays a role. I think it would be particularly useful with a particular fast heart rate called SVT (supraventricular tachycardia).

This can be a particularly sneaky rhythm to catch and it would be possible for a patient to be diagnosed with something like anxiety simply because we were unable to ever catch the rhythm. Even patients who receive 24-48 hour Holter monitoring might not have episodes captured.

It would even be useful in capturing certain rhythms that cause very low heart rates and could cause the patient to black out.

The crux is— it wouldn’t tell us the exact rhythm— only that the heart rate was low or high, but from that information we could look further.

Now, I’m thinking furiously about how to use this in a novel.


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