Equine Science Update by: Mark Andrews
A smartphone app can be a useful tool for identifying heart rhythm irregularities in horses, according to work presented at the annual congress of the European College of Equine Internal Medicine, which was held recently in Ghent, Belgium.
Clinicians from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the Cardenal Herrera University (CEU UCH) in Valencia, Spain, validated an app that allows electrocardiograms to be carried out on horses using a mobile phone. The study, conducted by CEU UCH professors Ignacio Corradini, Javier Enguel, Alicia Fernández and Marta Barba, is due to be published shortly.
Ignacio Corradini observes that not only are apps to monitor health are commonplace in the daily lives of people, their use is also growing in the field of veterinary medicine.
“With this research, we have shown that telemedicine and mobile phone apps can now also be used as tools for monitoring the health of horses and conduct a key diagnostic test such as an electrocardiogram. Conducting this test normally requires taking the horse to a veterinary hospital. But now, the field veterinarian, with their own phone, can conduct the electrocardiogram and send it digitally to the veterinarians who specialize in equine cardiology for their assessment.”
In the study, conducted in the University’s Veterinary Hospital, they evaluated the accuracy of the application on both sides of the chest to detect arrhythmias on a total of 50 horses, with and without prior arrhythmias. “The results have been excellent: the mobile phone has shown high sensitivity for detecting and characterizing the cardiac arrhythmias of horses. There is great potential with this type of application,” explains professor Corradini.
He adds that the main benefit of the app is that it favors the earlier detection of arrhythmias, while they are more amenable to treatment. Furthermore, the app will enable veterinarians to add the electrocardiogram as a common test during a routine check-up or during pre-purchase examinations. However, the mobile phone-based electrocardiogram will not eliminate the need for more sophisticated equipment and specialist interpretation.
Corradini stresses, “an electrocardiogram is an electrophysiological test that requires great experience to be appropriately interpreted, and therefore, although the field veterinarian can obtain an electrocardiogram with this app, it is of vital importance for the test to be sent to a specialised equine cardiologist to be assessed.”
He adds: “The equipment used in hospitals is more sensitive and would noticeably enhance the initial information provided by the mobile phone electrocardiogram. This is why, if an arrhythmia is detected on a horse, the test should be repeated with a more sophisticated device in a hospital with specialists in equine internal medicine to confirm the result.”