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Smartphone EKG App To Aid Blood Thinners Regulate Heartbeats

Update Date: May 10, 2016 06:43 AM EDT

People suffering from atrial fibrillation would need the aid of blood thinners to pry them away from abnormal or irregular heartbeats but some fruits of technology could possibly help out in that area.

Traditional means of addressing this illness would require the aid of blood-thinning drugs called anticoagulants. A blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin) is the top go-to-drug for people with this disease but has been linked to increased risk of bleeding.

"The problem is that long-term use of anticoagulants is associated with an increased risk of bleeding," explained study co-author Dr. Francis Marchlinski.

"So if you don't need them continuously, it's reasonable to try to avoid them as much as possible. Minor bleeding events can become a major event, or even life-threatening," Marchlinski adds.

There could be a major technology aid in a smartphone app called EKG. It comes in as a handy aid for folks burdened with the disease though diligent monitoring of their pulse and recording heartbeats. This should limit the usual practice of relying too much on drugs, turning to them only when needed.

The recent study however focused on newer drugs in the market, specifically rivaroxaban (Xarelto), apixaban (Eliquis), and dabigatran (Pradaxa). They are known to work faster and suited for a wider reach of patients that include "non-valvular" atrial fibrillation.

"This potential strategy for intermittent use is only intended for patients with electrocardiogram-demonstrated control of atrial fibrillation, who have undergone an extended period of monitoring, and who are avid pulse-takers that can recognize their atrial fibrillation if it occurs," warns Marchlinski.

100 patients aged 56 to 72 were part of the study to properly assess the “as-needed” approach tied up to anticoagulant use to address atrial fibrillation. When the study got underway, none of the participants showed issues for an extended period of time.

The participants checked their pulse twice daily, including nine who monitored their heart rhythm with the assistance of a smartphone-enabled device. The patients were given NOAC drugs and were told to refrain taking them unless they were certain of experiencing atrial fibrillation-related episodes between one to two hours.

Over an 18-month period, one quarter of the patients took in NOAC once while six patients ended up returning to a daily regimen of the drug.

While the finding seem like a good way to veer patients away from blood-thinning drug reliance, researchers caution that this is only a “pilot study” and that more research would be needed to back it up.

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