ECG app and irregular heart rhythm notification on Apple Watch coming to Saudi Arabia

An ECG Apple Watch app is to be released in Saudi Arabia in the next software update with iOS 13.5 and watchOS 6.2.5, the company announced on Monday. (Apple)
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Updated 22 May 2020

ECG app and irregular heart rhythm notification on Apple Watch coming to Saudi Arabia

  • Will be available in the next software update with iOS 13.5 and watchOS 6.2.5

An ECG Apple Watch app is to be released in Saudi Arabia in the next software update with iOS 13.5 and watchOS 6.2.5, the company announced on Monday.

The feature marks the first direct-to-consumer product that enables customers to take an electrocardiogram right from their wrist, capturing heart rhythm in a moment when they experience symptoms like a rapid or skipped heart beat and helping to provide critical data to physicians. 

The irregular rhythm notification feature on Apple Watch Series 1 or later will also occasionally check heart rhythms in the background and send a notification if an irregular heart rhythm that appears to be atrial fibrillation (AFib) is identified. The ECG app and the irregular rhythm notification feature have received approval as Class IIa medical devices by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, through the Medical Device Marketing Authorization (MDMA) process.

The ECG app and irregular heart rhythm notification feature will help users identify signs of AFib, the most common form of irregular rhythm. When left untreated, AFib is one of the leading conditions that can result in stroke, the second most common cause of death around the world.

“Apple Watch has helped so many people around the world and we are humbled that it has become such an important part of our customers’ lives,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “With the release of these heart features, Apple Watch takes the next step in empowering people with more information about their health.”

“We are confident in the ability of these features to help users have more informed conversations with their physicians,” said Sumbul Desai, MD, Apple’s vice president of Health. “With the ECG app and irregular rhythm notification feature, customers will be able to better understand aspects of their heart health in a more meaningful way.”

ECG App

New electrodes built into the back crystal and Digital Crown on Apple Watch Series 4 and later work together with the ECG app to enable customers to take an ECG similar to a single-lead reading. To take an ECG recording at any time or following an irregular rhythm notification, users launch the new ECG app on Apple Watch Series 4 and later and hold their finger on the Digital Crown. As the user touches the Digital Crown, the circuit is completed and electrical signals across their heart are measured. After 30 seconds, the heart rhythm is classified as either AFib, sinus rhythm, low or high heart rate or inconclusive. All recordings, their associated classifications and any noted symptoms are stored securely in the Health app on iPhone. Users can share a PDF of the results with physicians.

Dr. Sumbul Desai, Apple’s vice president of Health said: “During this time, we’re seeing just how important health is to all of us. At Apple, we have the opportunity to empower our customers with information about their health, andbecause our devices are with them so frequently, it encourages them to engage even further. It's a responsibility we feel very strongly about — that we can make a positivecontribution to an individual’s life.

“We see these features as new ways to improve individuals' process of understanding their health and we are really happy to bring them to Saudi Arabia."

Irregular Rhythm Notification

Using the optical heart sensor in Apple Watch Series 1 or later, the irregular rhythm notification feature will occasionally check the user’s heart rhythm in the background for signs of an irregular heart rhythm that appears to be AFib and alerts the user with a notification if an irregular rhythm is detected on five rhythm checks over a minimum of 65 minutes.

The ECG app’s ability to accurately classify an ECG recording into AFib and sinus rhythm was validated in a clinical trial of around 600 participants. Rhythm classification from a gold standard 12-lead ECG by a cardiologist was compared to the rhythm classification of a simultaneously collected ECG from the ECG app. The study found the ECG app on Apple Watch demonstrated 98.3 percent sensitivity in classifying AFib and 99.6 percent specificity in classifying sinus rhythm in classifiable recordings. In the study, 87.8 percent of recordings could be classified by the ECG app.

Dr. Mohammad Fateh Arab, a cardiologist, said: “From my experience as a cardiologist, this ECG feature can and will save lives. AFib is very common in older patients, but young individuals as well. It’s not always easy to catch AFib depending on the type of condition it is. Having a tool on your wrist that allows you to ‘check in’ on your health at any given point could potentially save that person's life from a stroke. It will also save health practitioners a lot of time trying to investigate the problem.”

The irregular rhythm notification feature was studied in the Apple Heart Study. With over 400,000 participants, the Apple Heart Study was the largest screening study on atrial fibrillation ever conducted, also making it one of the largest cardiovascular trials to date. A subset of the data from the Apple Heart Study was used to support approval of the irregular rhythm notification feature in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  In that sub-study, of the participants that received an irregular rhythm notification on their Apple Watch while simultaneously wearing an ECG patch, 80 percent showed AFib on the ECG patch and 98 percent showed AFib or other clinically relevant arrhythmias.

To enable these new heart features, customers will be taken through an onscreen setup that includes details about who can use these features, what the features can and cannot do, what results users may get, how to interpret those results, and clear instructions for what to do if users are feeling symptoms that require immediate medical attention.


In Lebanon, single-concert festival serenades empty ruins

Updated 05 July 2020

In Lebanon, single-concert festival serenades empty ruins

  • The Baalbek International Festival was streamed live on television and social media
  • The night kicked off with the Lebanese philharmonic orchestra and choir performing the national anthem

BEIRUT: A philharmonic orchestra performed to spectator-free Roman ruins in east Lebanon Sunday, after a top summer festival downsized to a single concert in a year of economic meltdown and pandemic.
The Baalbek International Festival was instead streamed live on television and social media, in what its director called a message of “hope and resilience” amid ever-worsening daily woes.
The night kicked off with the Lebanese philharmonic orchestra and choir performing the national anthem, followed by Carmina Burana’s “O Fortuna,” a 13th century poem set to music.

The program, which ran for just over an hour, included a mix of classical music and rock and folk tunes by composers ranging from Beethoven to Lebanon’s Rahbani brothers.
Held in the open air and conducted by Harout Fazlian, the 150 musicians and chorists were scattered inside the illuminated Temple of Bacchus, as drones filmed them among the enormous ruins and Greco-Roman temples of Baalbek.
Festival director Nayla de Freige told AFP most artists performed for free at the designated UNESCO World Heritage site.
The concert aimed to represent “a way of saying that Lebanon does not want to die. We have an extremely productive and creative art and culture sector,” she said.
“We want to send a message of civilization, hope and resilience.”
Baalbek itself became a militia stronghold during Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, but conservation and tourism have revived the ruins over the past three decades.
Lebanon is known for its summer music festivals, which have in past years drawn large crowds every night and attracted performers like Shakira, Sting and Andrea Bocelli.
Other festivals have not yet announced their plans for this year.
Lebanon has recorded just 1,873 cases of COVID-19, including 36 deaths.
But measures to stem the spread of the virus have exacerbated the country’s worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
Since economic woes in the autumn sparked mass protests against a political class deemed irretrievably corrupt, tens of thousands have lost their jobs or part of their income, and prices have skyrocketed.
Banks have prevented depositors from withdrawing their dollar savings, while the local currency has lost more than 80 percent of its value to the greenback on the black market.