San Francisco: Google-owned wearable brand Fitbit on Monday received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its new healthcare feature that can detect atrial fibrillation (AFib) – a health device that has made the Apple Watch highly vulnerable. popularized and which has saved many lives in the past.


AFib is a form of irregular heart rhythm that affects approximately 33.5 million people globally, and individuals with AFib have a five-fold higher risk of stroke. “Our new PPG AFib algorithm can passively assess your heart rhythm in the background while you are still or asleep. If there is anything that may indicate AFib, you will be notified via our Irregular Heart Rhythm Notifications feature,” Google said in a statement.


The Fitbit PPG-based algorithm and irregular heart rhythm notification feature will soon be available to consumers in the US on a range of heart-rate enabled devices. Clinical validation for Fitbit’s PPG algorithm is backed by data from the landmark Fitbit Heart Study, which launched in 2020 and enrolled 455,699 participants over five months, informed Google.


Data presented at the 2021 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions found that the Fitbit PPG correctly identified AFib episodes 98 percent of the time, as confirmed by the ECG patch monitor. “The unique capabilities of Fitbit devices – particularly its 24/7 heart rate tracking and long battery life – give it the ability to accelerate detection through long-term heart rhythm assessment,” Google said.

Now, Fitbit’s ECG app, which takes a spot-check approach, allows you to actively screen yourself for potential AFib and record an ECG trace that you can review with a healthcare provider. While the new PPG-based algorithm allows long-term heart rhythm assessment to help identify asymptomatic AFib that may otherwise go undetected, Google said.