About five million people in the United States suffer from atrial fibrillation, the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia. When detected, it can be controlled by drugs. But because it often goes undiagnosed, it is responsible for as many as 70,000 strokes a year.
Detecting the condition can be a challenge. The traditional Holter monitor requires patients to carry a battery device, which is linked by wires to electrodes that are attached to a patient’s chest. The device, which costs up to $2500, is often removed for showering or sleeping, so the information gathered can be unreliable.
“When I have a patient in the clinic, I’m constantly struggling to figure out which monitor I’m going to use, which imperfection I’m going to live with the most,” says David Linker of University of Washington Medicine. “I said to myself, ‘How can I have a monitor that fills all my needs?’ ”
Linker came up with a better idea. Using an algorithm that quickly and accurately detects an irregular heartbeat, he built a device which, including batteries, is the size of a watchband and weighs a quarter of an ounce. It is attached to a patient’s chest with removable glue and can record a heartbeat for up to a week, uninterrupted. When the patient next visits the doctor, the physician pops a little memory cell out of the plastic case and onto a computer, which reveals immediately if the patient suffers from atrial fibrillation.
In 2010, Linker founded the startup Cardiac Insight with CEO Brad Harlow to produce the device, called the Stealth Ambulatory Monitor. Cardiac Insight is licensing the patent for the monitor from the University of Washington. “We’ve made a monitor for this century,” says Linker.
Cardiac Insight, which is filing an application with the Food and Drug Administration, plans to market the monitors as a package that includes both the monitor and the software to analyze the data at a cost of about $20 to $25.