December 05, 2018

Detecting Equine Arrhythmias With a Smartphone App

Developed by a group of veterinary professors in Spain, this new technology makes it possible to obtain electrocardiograms with nothing more than a smartphone.
By Amanda Carrozza
Horse ElectrocardiogramProfessors of veterinary medicine from Cardenal Herrera University in Valencia, Spain have created a simple way to identify arrhythmias in horses. Keeping in line with adaptive technology that dominates much of the modern world, the group’s new smartphone application makes it possible to obtain equine electrocardiograms (ECGs) with nothing more than a smartphone.

Ignacio Corradini, MV, MSc, MRCVS, head investigator of the study, explained that apps to monitor health are not only more present in the daily lives of people, but they also have growing uses in veterinary medicine. The group’s research was exhibited recently at the annual congress of the European College of Equine Internal Medicine and is slated for publication in an international equine journal.

“With this research, we have shown that telemedicine and mobile phone apps can now also be used as tools for monitoring the health of horses and conduct a key diagnostic test, such as an electrocardiogram,” he said. “Conducting this test normally requires taking the horse to a veterinary hospital. But now, the field veterinarian, with their own phone, can conduct the electrocardiogram and send it digitally to veterinarians who specialize in equine cardiology for their assessment.”

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For their study, the investigators evaluated the accuracy of the smartphone app on 50 horses both with and without prior arrhythmias. The testing was conducted on both sides of the horse’s thorax. According to the group, the results exceeded expectations and the mobile phone proved to have high sensitivity for detecting and characterizing the cardiac arrhythmias of horses.

“There is great potential with this type of applications,” Dr. Corradini said. “But the main benefit...is that it favors an earlier detection of arrhythmias before it is too late to reverse or improve them.”

By making the app available to equine veterinarians, the group hopes that ECGs will be more easily conducted and thus more common during routine evaluations. However, Dr. Corradini cautions that the mobile phone–based ECG has some notable limitations and has not been designed to replace hospital-based ECGs entirely. Therefore, it is vital that ECGs obtained in the field are sent to a specialized equine cardiologist to be assessed professionally. “The equipment used in hospitals is more sensitive and would noticeably enhance the initial information provided by the mobile phone electrocardiogram," he said. "This is why, if an arrhythmia is detected on a horse, the test should be repeated with a more sophisticated device in a hospital with specialists in equine internal medicine to confirm the result.”

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