Mayo Clinic News Network
Shortness of breath can be a sign of many ailments, including heart failure, which affects approximately 5 million people in the U.S. Difficulty breathing is also a hallmark of COVID-19, which makes rapid diagnosis even more important.
A new study from Mayo Clinic researchers finds that EKGs enhanced with artificial intelligence are more effective in evaluating cardiac dysfunction in patients, helping to diagnose a patient’s shortness of breath, compared to traditional methods or standards of care. An electrocardiogram, also known as an EKG, is a 10-second recording of the heart’s electrical activity.
“Determining why someone has shortness of breath is challenging for emergency department physicians, especially now, when a patient’s symptom could be a result of any number of conditions, including COVID-19,” said Dr. Demilade Adedinsewo, chief cardiology fellow at Mayo Clinic in Florida, and lead author of the study published in Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology, an American Heart Association journal.
Typically, when people seek emergency care for shortness of breath, an EKG is performed. Patients suspected of heart failure also may undergo a blood test to look for specific elevated biomarkers, such as NT-pro BNP.
“But these biomarker levels can also be affected by obesity, age, kidney disease, severe infection, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms and specific heart failure medication,” Adedinsewo said.
Recognizing the value of AI, a group of Mayo Clinic physicians and researchers developed the EKG-based tool and evaluated 1,606 patients who came to any Mayo Clinic emergency department with a primary complaint of difficulty breathing.
“With an artificial intelligence-enhanced EKG, we can detect decreased heart function more accurately and quickly than current standard of care tests in patients being evaluated in the emergency room for shortness of breath,” Adedinsewo said.
Although AI-enhanced EKGs are not widely available, in May, the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization of the AI-enhanced EKG algorithm to aid in screening for cardiac dysfunction in people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 disease.