Background: Patients with palpitations and pre-syncope commonly present to Emergency Departments (EDs) but underlying rhythm diagnosis is often not possible during the initial presentation. This trial compares the symptomatic rhythm detection rate of a smartphone-based event recorder (AliveCor) alongside standard care versus standard care alone, for participants presenting to the ED with palpitations and pre-syncope with no obvious cause evident at initial consultation.
Methods: Multi-centre open label, randomised controlled trial. Participants ≥ 16 years old presenting to 10 UK hospital EDs were included. Participants were randomised to either (a) intervention group; standard care plus the use of a smartphone-based event recorder or (b) control group; standard care alone. Primary endpoint was symptomatic rhythm detection rate at 90 days. Trial registration number NCT02783898 (ClinicalTrials.gov).
Findings: Two hundred forty-three participants were recruited over an 18-month period. A symptomatic rhythm was detected at 90 days in 69 (n = 124; 55.6%; 95% CI 46.9-64.4%) participants in the intervention group versus 11 (n = 116; 9.5%; 95% CI 4.2-14.8) in the control group (RR 5.9, 95% CI 3.3-10.5; p < 0.0001). Mean time to symptomatic rhythm detection in the intervention group was 9.5 days (SD 16.1, range 0-83) versus 42.9 days (SD 16.0, range 12-66; p < 0.0001) in the control group. The commonest symptomatic rhythms detected were sinus rhythm, sinus tachycardia and ectopic beats. A symptomatic cardiac arrhythmia was detected at 90 days in 11 (n = 124; 8.9%; 95% CI 3.9-13.9%) participants in the intervention group versus 1 (n = 116; 0.9%; 95% CI 0.0-2.5%) in the control group (RR 10.3, 95% CI 1.3-78.5; p = 0.006).
Interpretation: Use of a smartphone-based event recorder increased the number of patients in whom an ECG was captured during symptoms over five-fold to more than 55% at 90 days. This safe, non-invasive and easy to use device should be considered part of on-going care to all patients presenting acutely with unexplained palpitations or pre-syncope.
Funding: This study was funded by research awards from Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland (CHSS) and British Heart Foundation (BHF) which included funding for purchasing the devices. MR was supported by an NHS Research Scotland Career Researcher Clinician award.
Keywords: Ambulatory electrocardiography monitoring; Cardiac arrhythmias; Palpitations; Pre-syncope.