It’s not uncommon to see health-related devices and detectors housed in accessories that can be worn. From wearable insulin pumps to balance bracelets, the convenience of a wearable health aid is a great idea. But a necklace that can spot atrial fibrillation (AFib) in under 30 seconds? That’s something new.

A team of Finnish researchers has developed a necklace outfitted with a pendant that patients can easily and discreetly use to screen themselves for signs of an abnormal heart rhythm. The pendant houses a portable electrocardiogram (EKG), which transmits readings to an app on your smartphone and a cloud-based server. The information is then fed into an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm where diagnostic results are calculated, according to HealthDay News.

Per Elmeri Santala, a Ph.D. candidate in clinical research in the faculty of health sciences at the University of Eastern Finland, to obtain the reading, the pendant has to be held either between the palms of the hands or between the bare chest and palm of one hand. Results can then be sent both to the patient and to a physician for final review.

Results are Promising

To date, researchers have tested the EKG necklace on 145 study participants. Each participant had both a standard EKG reading and a self-administered necklace reading. Working with a team of cardiologists, the study team concluded that the necklace was able to generate highly accurate EKG recording; up to 98% accuracy in identifying patients who had experienced an atrial fibrillation-generated abnormal heart rhythm and 100% accuracy in identifying those who had not.

Hope for a Healthier Future

Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of arrhythmia and is a fast-growing public health problem worldwide. It can be described as a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.

In the United States, where AFib affects about 2.7 million Americans, both the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association recommend getting screened during a primary care check-up. "The general rule is the more you screen for AFib, the more you'll find," said Dr. Patrick Ellinor, director of cardiac arrhythmia services at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

The pendant medical device, which is still in its testing phase, could cost less than an Apple Watch once it hits the market, making it within reach of many people who might benefit from its use.