If you think that fitness trackers and bands that monitor heart rate and other data are mostly for show, there is a 42-year old man who would certainly disagree. In fact, his Fitbit Charge HR might have been the only thing that prevented him from passing away in the ER at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden.
The man suffered a seizure and arrived by ambulance at the ER with an irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation. To correctly treat the condition, Doctors would have to know if the AFib was chronic, or if it was set off by the seizure which had taken place 20 minutes before his arrival at the hospital. The usual treatment is to get the paddles and shock the heart back into sinus rhythm (Yes, we are big fans of ER, House, Chicago Med and other shows of that genre).
If the patient’s AFib was a chronic condition, shocking the heart could set off a stroke by dislodging an appendage clot, sending it to the aorta. But a stroke could ensue if the doctors decided to do nothing to treat the arrhythmia. Luckily, one of the hospital staff noticed that the patient was wearing a Fitbit, which synced with an app on his smartphone. Looking at the app, the doctors determined that the patient had a baseline pulse rate in between 70 and 80 bpm. That rose to 140 to 160 bpm at the time that the seizure started, and stayed at that rate until medication was administered in the field.
With that information, the docs realized that it was the seizure that caused the atrial fibrillation. Therefore, the heart could be shocked into sinus rhythm, which it was. This was the first time on record that a fitness tracker was used by doctors to help them make a medical “life or death” decision on treatment.
We wouldn’t be surprised to see fitness tracker sales pick up sharply in the months ahead.