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Taiwan university unveils heart arrhythmia detection app

Source: CNA News by Flor Wang and Chiang Hui-chun

National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) on Monday unveiled an app to detect atrial fibrillation that it jointly developed with FocalTech Smart Sensors Co., Ltd. in the hope of better identifying people suffering from the disease.

The pulse-detecting app, which allows individuals to place a finger in a cellphone camera lens to measure their heart rate, is the first of its kind in Asia to detect atrial fibrillation, members of the NTUH team told a news conference.

According to Chen Wen-chung (陳文鍾), director of NTUH's Cardiovascular Center, atrial fibrillation is a common type of heart arrhythmia most often seen in adults, which can trigger strokes, heart failure and even death in people unaware they have the heart problem.

It is not easy to diagnose the disease, but relevant risks can be largely reduced through adequate treatment, he said.

Lin Lian-yu (林亮宇), an attending doctor in NTUH's Department of Internal Medicine, said age, obesity, high blood pressure, alcohol consumption and smoking are all factors that contribute to atrial fibrillation.

Symptoms include heart palpitations, fatigue, dizziness, and breathing difficulties, but around 30 percent of patients display none of these conditions while 50 percent experience some of these side effects only occasionally, Lin said.

Tests have shown that the app has a 95 percent accuracy rate thanks to its photoplethysmography (PPG) -- based technology, which depicts the changing blood volume with a rising curve indicating the heartbeat, Lin Ting-tse (林廷澤), director of the Cardiovascular Center at NTUH's Hsinchu branch, explained.

Wu Pei-Tzu (吳培滋), chairman of FocalTech Smart Sensors, who was also present at the news conference, noted that the app is the first locally developed device to be approved by the the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

It is also the first of its kind developed in Asia, he added.

Wu said the app can be downloaded free of charge currently, expressing hope that it will become more widely used in general physical examinations nationwide.

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