STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
First, we have the story of a man who was saved by his Fitbit. That's that little device often worn like a watch that helps you track the steps you take and, in some cases, your vital signs. A Fitbit is not considered a medical device. All the same, it helped doctors in New Jersey, as NPR's Alison Kodjak reports.
ALISON KODJAK, BYLINE: The patient came to the emergency room after a seizure, and he didn't even know his heart was racing out of control.
ALFRED SACCHETTI: He came in with atrial fibrillation, and he didn't recognize he was in it.
KODJAK: Alfred Sacchetti is the head of emergency medicine at our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden, N.J.
SACCHETTI: So the team asked him, you know, do you field that your heart's racing? He said, no, I really don't feel anything. I feel perfectly fine.
KODJAK: That caused a problem for the doctors because they needed to know when it started. Time is a crucial factor in the decision to shock the heart back to a normal rhythm. If it's been too long, there's a risk of blood clots.
SACCHETTI: So if you're faced with a patient like that, you have no idea when it started because he can't tell that it's beating abnormally.
KODJAK: But this patient was wearing a Fitbit that tracked his heart rate and connected to his phone. The doctors checked the date on the phone and found the irregular heart rate had only begun about two hours before he arrived at the emergency room.
SACCHETTI: We were able to hook him up to the pads, put him to sleep, give him a little shock and let him wake up and go home.
KODJAK: Sacchetti and the ER team published the case study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. Sacchetti says fitness tracker information could come in handy in other situations, like when a patient's symptoms ease before they arrive at the hospital, but some doctors are skeptical. Mary Norine Walsh is president-elect of the American College of Cardiology.
MARY NORINE WALSH: This was interesting, but not highly applicable and won't really change how we're going to do anything. Those physicians chose to rely on Fitbit data. I'm not sure everybody would have.
KODJAK: She says there's no evidence that Fitbit data is accurate enough to use in medical situations. Alison Kodjak, NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.