SMARTPHONES should be used to check for heart conditions in people suffering life-threatening palpitations and blackouts, according to a new study.

Researchers in Edinburgh found that using a smartphone-based electro-cardiogram (ECG) recorder to monitor cardiac rhythm and electrical activity, patients were times more likely to receive a diagnosis than those receiving current standard care.

More than 300,000 people in the UK present at A&E with palpitations and near blackouts every year.

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There is hope that the findings, published today in the journal Lancet eClinical Medicine, could save thousands of lives across the UK as people often go for months, and sometimes years, without a diagnosis.

It is the first time that a smartphone-based ECG recorder has been tested in a randomised controlled trial.

The participants included Graham Moodie, 65, a laboratory technician from Edinburgh who had been experiencing severe palpitations on and off that would send him into panic.

Last year, whilst working at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, Mr Moodie experienced the most severe palpitations of his life and was rushed to the hospital's emergency department.

It was there that was approached by a member of the Emergency Medicine Research Group Edinburgh (EMERGE) team who asked him to take part in their study.

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A small device was attached to his mobile phone to enable it to act as an ECG recorder which would monitor Mr Moodie's heart rhythm on the go, making them more likely to catch palpitations as they happen. This is crucial for effective diagnosis.

Mr Moodie said: “Sometimes the palpitations would be quite mild but then other times my heart would be pounding so hard in my chest and then suddenly stop and I would feel no beats at all for what felt like ages. My body would go into flight mode when it happened and I would begin to panic.

“There is a history of heart conditions in my family, both my dad and grandfather had them, so I think that made me worry more.

“The first time I experienced palpitations with the ECG-recorder I felt a great sense of security.

"Having the monitor on me made me feel prepared if something did go wrong. The team would check my ECG and reassure me that everything looked normal.

“Being on this trial gave me my confidence back. I experience my palpitations a lot less now and they are much less severe, and I think that’s a knock on effect from having the reassurance from the doctors that it’s ok.

"I find if they do occur, they pass very quickly as I am able to stay calm and keep relaxed whereas before I would panic which I don’t think helped.

“I have this trial to thank for restoring my confidence. I now know my heart is okay.”

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Dr Matt Reed, who led the research, said: “Patients who suffer from episodes of palpitation sometimes go for months if not years without a diagnosis.

"This large independent UK study has demonstrated that a smartphone-based ECG recorder is five times more effective at diagnosing the cause of symptoms than current standard care.

"The NHS needs to ensure that this relatively cheap but hugely effective technology, rapidly becomes part of routine care for these patients.”

The study was funded by Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland and the British Heart Foundation.

Jane-Claire Judson, chief executive of Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, said: “Living with a heart condition can have a huge impact on people’s daily lives. People can become anxious about leaving the house and often fear being on their own in case they fall ill.

“This device, which is so easy to use, could give people the security that their symptoms are being recorded and lead to that much needed diagnosis.

“It is vital that it is rolled out across Scotland so that people don’t have to live their lives in fear and wait years for a diagnosis which could transform their lives.”