By Travis Van Slooten
This is an update to our February 2015 review. We welcome guest blogger, Travis Van Slooten, publisher of Livingwithatrialfibrillation.com. An active user of the AliveCor Kardia, he is sharing his review and opinions.
As someone that battled a-fib for 8½ years prior to having a successful ablation, the Kardia Mobile heart monitor by AliveCor really helped me and gave me peace of mind.
The Kardia monitor is a FDA-approved device that works with your smartphone and allows you to take an ECG recording of your heart from the comfort of your home, office, or anywhere.
The Kardia consists of two parts. There is the device itself, a small, wireless component that attaches or sits in close proximity to a cell phone or tablet. It syncs to the second component, a smartphone app.
It’s very straight forward to use the device. After you download the app to your smartphone, open and click on “Record Now”; then press your fingers to the device.
As soon as you click on the green “Record Now” button, with your fingers on the device, the app displays an ECG reading of your heart in real-time and records it.
The default setting is 30 seconds, but you can record up to 5 minutes if you want.
I recommend the one-minute recording, because 30 seconds is too short and anything over one minute is longer than necessary to get the data you need.
Three classifications. When completed, AliveCor’s built-in filter will tell you immediately if you are potentially in afib or not. The three classifications you’ll potentially get are:
• Possible Afib
|VIDEO: AliveCor Kardia Review by Actualidad iPad
Best footage I could find of the Kardia app screen. Shows actual capturing of the ECG signal with an inset image showing the users hand positions on the Kardia device. He repeats and adjusts his hands and you see the results on the screen. Watch 1st 3:00 min. Followed by report screen, emailing, etc. In Spanish (can mute audio).
Legally, AliveCor’s filter can’t say you are definitely in afib; so if you’re in afib, it will say, “Possible Afib.” If you get this message, you’ll want to share the ECG with your doctor, which you can easily do within the app. You can also send the ECG to AliveCor’s ECG analysis service from within the app for a fee to get an interpretation.
The “normal” classification is self-explanatory. If your heart is in normal sinus rhythm (NSR), you’ll get this message. This is the classification you hope to see!
The “unclassified” classification is a bit trickier. This means one of two things. You’re either having an arrhythmia other than afib such as PVCs, PACs, tachycardia, bradycardia, etc., or the device wasn’t held properly so an accurate recording wasn’t taken.
If you get the unclassified message, there are a couple things you can do. You can try another recording to see if you get the same message, or you can send the ECG to your doctor or AliveCor’s ECG analysis service for interpretation. Usually when I get this message, I find out I’m having PVCs and PACs.
Why Should Every Person with Afib Own This Device?
Let me explain how it helped me.
When I would go into afib, I knew I was in afib! I was highly symptomatic. However, I always turned to my Kardia Mobile monitor to confirm I was indeed in afib before I would take my medication. I was taking Flecainide at the time as a pill-in-the-pocket approach to treating my atrial fibrillation. This is a very powerful antiarrhythmic drug, especially at the doses I was taking (300mg), so I didn’t want to take it unless I was absolutely sure I was in afib.
I would then use the AliveCor monitor afterwards to confirm I was back in NSR. For me, it would usually take 4-6 hours before the Flecainide would work. It was great to have the monitor to confirm when the episode was over. I would share this information with my doctor, which helped him to determine if our treatment approach was working.
Since my successful ablation back in March 2015, I haven’t had a need to use the Kardia monitor for afib specifically, but now I use it in my battle with PVCs and PACs.
Sometimes these get so intense that I feel like I’m having a minor afib episode (if there is such a thing as a minor afib episode). I use the monitor extensively to confirm I’m having just PVCs and PACs and not afib. I also use the data to keep a historical record of the number of PVCs and PACs I’m having.
As I’m sure you can see by now, this little device can provide a lot of useful information for you and your doctor.
The Drawbacks of the Kardia Mobile Monitor
I’m a big advocate of this device, but it isn’t perfect. My primary complaints about the device are that it can be very touchy at times and can provide inaccurate or misleading classifications.
Must hold the monitor “just right”. The Kardia monitor requires that you stay perfectly still to get the cleanest and most accurate ECG reading. If you move around or if you move your fingers, or if you hold the device too hard or too soft, you can get a “dirty” ECG reading or an inaccurate classification. This can be annoying as it can sometimes take 2-3 attempts to get a good reading.
Misleading classifications can be common as well. There have been many times when the app shows “Possible Afib” when I’m just having PVCs and PACs. And when I’m having PVCs and PACs, it will almost always say “Unclassified.” It would be nice if it said PVCs and/or PACs instead of leaving me in the dark with an “Unclassified” message or indicating I might be in afib.
ECG analysis service fees adds up. My other minor complaints are that the ECG analysis service is expensive, and there is no ambulatory (continuous) monitoring. Through the app, you’ll pay $9 for a technician only analysis or $19 for a cardiologist analysis and recommendation. If you’re having a lot of your ECG recordings analyzed, this can add up quickly!
Can’t monitor your heart while walking or sleeping. Given the nature of the device – having to hold it perfectly still when you want to take a recording – there is no ambulatory monitoring available. For example, you can’t monitor your heart while walking or exercising. You can’t monitor your heart while sleeping. It would be great if future versions include some kind of wearable tech to allow continuous monitoring for these situations.
Bottom Line: Still the Best Consumer Heart Monitor. Despite these drawbacks, the Kardia device is still the best available monitor of its kind in the consumer market, in my opinion. If any of these drawbacks were improved upon, it would just make the monitor that much better!
What the Future Holds for the Kardia Monitor
Just recently, AliveCor partnered with Omron. You can buy a Bluetooth-enabled Omron blood pressure monitor and store that information in the Kardia Mobile app. This will give you additional useful data of your heart health that you can use and share with your doctor.
There is also the Kardia Band that AliveCor is waiting for the approval of by the FDA. This is a band for the Apple watch. Instead of carrying the device in your pocket or attaching it to your phone like you have to now, you’ll be able to wear this band with your Apple watch and just place your thumb on it to take a recording. How convenient that will be!
If you have atrial fibrillation and you don’t own this device, I highly recommend you get one. It’s another tool in your “afib toolbox” that can help you manage your condition and give you peace of mind.
We are grateful to Travis for sharing his first-hand experience and opinions. Visit his blog for a more extensive review of the AliveCor Kardia.
Travis Van Slooten is a blogger, internet marketer and atrial fibrillation patient who has been passionate about providing knowledge, inspiration, and support to fellow afibbers ever since his diagnosis in 2006. You can follow him on his blog or his afib Facebook page.