News items Smartwatch reliably detects cardiac arrest

22 February 2024

A group of researchers, led by Radboudumc, have succeeded in reliably detecting circulatory standstill in patients, similar to a cardiac arrest, using a smartwatch. They demonstrated this in 291 patients undergoing surgery, during which the blood circulation is interrupted as part of routine practice. These findings were published today The Lancet Digital Health. The Dutch Heart Foundation initiated and funded the research.

Doctors and scientists conducted the study in 291 patients in whom short-lasting interruption of the blood circulation was induced during surgery, such as during the placement of an ICD, also known as an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator. This device can treat life-threatening heart rhythm disorders. After implantation, cardiologists test whether the ICD intervenes during a heart rhythm disorder that causes cardiac arrest. The participating patients provided consent to wear the smartwatch before the surgery. The watch successfully detected cardiac arrest in almost all patients.

Special smartwatch

The researchers, led by Niels van Royen and Judith Bonnes of Radboudumc, utilized the Cardiowatch from Corsano Health. The watch is equipped with so-called PPG sensors, which use light to measure whether there is reduced blood flow in the smallest blood vessels in the skin. This occurs when the circulation stops due to a cardiac arrest. The researchers developed special software to detect when the circulation stops. 

Further testing in real-life settings

In further research, the investigators will assess whether this technique is also fully reliable in everyday life. During surgery, someone lies still, but in daily life people make various movements. For this follow-up project, the researchers are still looking for healthy volunteers, ICD recipients, and other heart patients willing to participate. Interested individuals can sign up at

Solution needed for unwitnessed cardiac arrest

The goal of the DETECT study is to develop a smartwatch that can automatically detect a cardiac arrest and alert emergency services. Thirty percent of the people who experience cardiac arrest are alone. In such cases, there are no witnesses available to provide or call for help, and the survival chances are very low. In case of a false alarm for cardiac arrest, individuals will be able to cancel a call to emergency services. This cancel button will also be tested by the researchers in the coming period.

About the research

In 2020, the Dutch Heart Foundation initiated the cardiac arrest without witnesses research program. With the national network of citizen responders and AEDs (automated external defibrillators), the survival chance for people with cardiac arrest has greatly increased over the years. The Dutch Heart Foundation aims to also increase the survival rate for victims of unwitnessed cardiac arrest. DETECT is one of the two studies funded by the Dutch Heart Foundation through the PPP (Public-Private Partnership) funding provided by the Top Sector Life Sciences & Health (Health~Holland) to stimulate public-private collaborations.

The smartwatch for automatic cardiac arrest detection and alarming of the emergency medical system is being developed in collaboration with Erasmus MC, Reinier de Graaf Gasthuis, and Corsano Health. Maastricht UMC+ also participated in the aforementioned study.

About the publication

This study has been published in The Lancet Digital Health: Automated cardiac arrest detection using a photoplethysmography wristband: algorithm development and validation in patients with induced circulatory arrest in the DETECT-1 study. Authors: Roos Edgar, Niels T B Scholte, Kambiz Ebrahimkheil, Marc A Brouwer, Rypko J Beukema, Masih Mafi-Rad, Kevin Vernooy, Sing-Chien Yap, Eelko Ronner, Nicolas van Mieghem, Eric Boersma, Peter C Stas, Niels van Royen, Judith L Bonnes. This study was also funded by Health~Holland.

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