Medical Technology Playing Vital Role in Early Detection of Heart Attacks Among Younger Women

By Stuart Long, CEO of InfoBionic

Improvements in data storage and management, deep learning, artificial intelligence and secure telecommunications have led to vast improvements in medical technology.

These advancements give physicians the opportunity to monitor and address the alarming rise in heart attacks among younger women.

A recent study in Circulation revealed a disturbing increase in the incidence of heart attacks among younger women:

·         From 1995-1999, women between the ages of 35 and 55 accounted for 21 percent of reported heart attacks.  

·         From 2010-2014, heart attacks for women between ages 35 to 55 increased by nearly one-third.

·         The increase occurred even as the rate of heart attacks among men within the same age group barely budged.

The study also showed that women are more likely than men in the same age group to die of their first heart attack. Studies show this is due to several factors:

·         Women are more likely to experience multiple symptoms besides chest pain and mistake heart attack symptoms for anxiety, stress, flu, indigestion or menopause. 

·         Spontaneous coronary arterial dissection (SCAD) is much more common in women with no known heart attack precursors.

·         While sudden cardiac death (SCD) is less common among women than in men, female SCD victims are less likely than men to have pre-existing coronary artery disease (CAD) than men.

·         Women experiencing heart attacks are over 50 percent more likely than men to be misdiagnosed. This is partly because of the multiple symptoms they tend to present. Common misdiagnoses include epilepsy, indigestion/acid reflux, anxiety, flu and menopause.

·         Women who were misdiagnosed were 70 percent more likely to die from a heart attack within 30 days compared to those who were correctly diagnosed on the first visit.

·         Women are less likely than men to receive effective treatment, including lipid-lowering medications, non-aspirin antiplatelet agents, coronary angiography, cardiac monitoring and revascularization. 

Limitations of Older Technology

Cardiologists have been limited by available technology. For example, EKGs typically only capture a 10-second snapshot of heartbeat data. Wearable remote monitoring technology only captures a limited number of days of data at a time before the patient had to bring the device back to the provider.

Even then, providers couldn’t access the patient’s data themselves. The data had to be interpreted at an independent diagnostic and testing firm (IDTF). This would often delay the diagnostic process and therefore effective treatment.

Older Holter monitors were unwieldy and uncomfortable, impacting patient compliance. Even when patients did wear monitors as directed, IDTF technicians would often send just a 20-or-30-second feed to the doctor via email or fax, with no onset or offset data. Other limitations included:

·         Short monitoring periods and intermittent events simply fell outside of the two-to-three-day monitoring window.

·         Monitors relied on patient activation – but patients would only activate after experiencing systems, causing doctors to miss critical onset data during the day before an arrhythmia or other cardiac event.

·         Older monitors required patients to physically return to the doctor’s office with their monitors before data could be accessed – and even that required a third-party go-between.

·         95 to 99 percent of critical diagnostic data would get discarded, meaning doctors would never see it.

New Technologies Improving Accuracy and Time to Diagnose

One key area where medical advancements are moving at a rapid pace is legacy cardiac monitoring technology, which gives doctors direct access patient cardiac data that can zero in on potential arrhythmias and cardiac events in seconds.

In fact, researchers have reported that patients who wear remote cardiac monitors are twice as likely to survive a cardiac event.

To accurately detect, diagnose and report a cardiac arrythmia, ambulatory cardiac monitors must record 100 percent of heart beats 100 percent of the time–and make 100 percent of that information available to the cardiologist in near real-time. A snapshot could miss important clinical information either before or after an arrythmia.

New technology uses algorithms that note key cardiac events and allow doctors to sort through large amounts of data quickly.

The enhanced capabilities of the next generation of remote cardiac monitors are allowing cardiologists and primary care physicians to make faster and more accurate diagnoses.

About the Author

Stuart Long is the CEO of InfoBionic, the Boston-based manufacturer of the MoMe® Kardia ambulatory cardiac monitoring platform. Along with more than 20 years in the medical device industry, Long has held management positions in hospital-based radiology and non-invasive cardiology.

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