Researchers Use Apple Watch ECGs to Detect Weak Heart Pumps

According to a new study presented at the Heart Rhythm Society conference on Sunday, May 1, an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm developed by researchers at the Mayo Clinic interprets ECG readings from an Apple Watch to identify patients with a weak heart pump.


Left ventricular dysfunction, or a weak heart pump afflicts 2% to 3% of people globally and up to 9% of people over age 60. It may be asymptomatic or be associated with shortness of breath, leg swelling, or racing heartbeats.

While a standard ECG uses 12 electrode leads strategically placed on a person’s chest, arms, and legs, researchers modified an established 12-lead algorithm to interpret ECG signals generated from the single lead on an Apple Watch.

“It is absolutely remarkable that AI transforms a consumer watch ECG signal into a detector of this condition,” said Paul Friedman, M.D. 

Approximately 420 patients had a watch ECG recorded within 30 days of a clinically ordered echocardiogram, or ultrasound of the heart, a standard test to measure pump strength. We took advantage of those data to see whether we could identify a weak heart pump with AI analysis of the watch ECG. While our data are early, the test had an area under the curve of 0.88, meaning it is as good as or slightly better than a medical treadmill test.

This study was funded by Mayo Clinic, with no technical or financial support from Apple.