X

Apple Watch gets FDA-cleared EKG features

Abnormal heart rhythm alert and an electrocardiogram could both help warn of potentially life-threatening heart conditions.

james-martin-profile-crop
james-martin-profile-crop
James Martin
Apple Watch electrocardiogram EKG
1 of 9 James Martin/CNET

CNET senior reporter Vanessa Hand Orellana sits in a consultation room at UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco while cross-referencing Apple Watch's new electrocardiogram feature readings with medical-grade EKG equipment. 

"The last thing I expected was to find something abnormal with my heart rhythm," she says. 

Apple Watch electrocardiogram EKG
2 of 9 James Martin/CNET

With the update to WatchOS 5.1.2, heart rate will play a more important role on the Apple Watch as the device gets access to the two new FDA-cleared features: an abnormal heart rhythm alert for all models, except for the first-generation, and an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) exclusive to the Series 4

Apple Watch electrocardiogram EKG
3 of 9 James Martin/CNET

The latest update to Apple Watch, WatchOS 5.1.2, rolled out the two new features, both of which could help warn of potentially life-threatening heart conditions.  

Apple Watch electrocardiogram EKG
4 of 9 James Martin/CNET

A technician connects the series of 12 electrodes used in the hospital during a standard medical EKG heart test.

Apple Watch electrocardiogram EKG
5 of 9 James Martin/CNET

The EKG on the Apple Watch directly coincided with the results of the hospital EKG that Dr. Gregory Marcus, a professor of medicine and a cardiac electrophysiologist at UCSF Medical Center, had printed out. Both devices showed intermittent early beats coming from the upper right ventricle of Vanessa's heart.

Apple Watch electrocardiogram EKG
6 of 9 James Martin/CNET

The results from the Apple Watch on the iPhone were compared to the 12-lead EKG results on paper. 

"This would be really useful to screen for this or to have the first understanding that you have these early heart beats," said Marcus. 

"What's missing in the single lead Apple Watch is the information that tells us more specifically where exactly this is coming from."

Apple Watch electrocardiogram EKG
7 of 9 James Martin/CNET

"We see on your Apple Watch the same early heartbeat that we see on the EKG," said Marcus during CNET's testing.

Apple Watch electrocardiogram EKG
8 of 9 James Martin/CNET

Examining the results of the Apple Watch EKG alongside the test of the more advanced medical EKG device at the UCSF Medical Center

Apple Watch electrocardiogram EKG
9 of 9 James Martin/CNET

Marcus says the results displayed on both devices are concerning for Vanessa. He wants to follow up with her about the early beat that was detected. 

For people with more serious heart conditions, this could help doctors make a faster diagnosis and allow them to treat the problem sooner.

The irregular heart rhythm notification is already available on all Apple Watches starting with the Series 1 and can be set up in the Heart section of the Watch app. 

The EKG app is only available on the Apple Watch Series 4 and is only available in the US, though Apple expects to get regulatory approval for this feature in other countries later on. 

More Galleries

2022's Best TV Shows You Can't Miss on Netflix, HBO, Disney Plus and More
John Cena attends Warner Bros. premiere of The Suicide Squad, in costume as Peacemaker.

2022's Best TV Shows You Can't Miss on Netflix, HBO, Disney Plus and More

95 Photos
The Best Games on Nintendo Switch in 2022
zelda-cnet-2.jpg

The Best Games on Nintendo Switch in 2022

36 Photos
US Air Force at 75: These Are the Aircraft It's Flown
110403-f-ka253-155

US Air Force at 75: These Are the Aircraft It's Flown

45 Photos
Toyota C-HR Prologue Sharpens Up the Small SUV
Toyota C-HR Prologue

Toyota C-HR Prologue Sharpens Up the Small SUV

11 Photos
The 51 Best VR Games
astro-bot-rescue-mission-screen-02-ps4-us-18may18

The 51 Best VR Games

53 Photos
Movies Coming in 2022 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More
thor4

Movies Coming in 2022 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More

85 Photos
2024 Acura Integra Type S Looks Sharp in Camouflage
2024 Acura Integra Type S

2024 Acura Integra Type S Looks Sharp in Camouflage

9 Photos