AI caught a hidden problem in one patient’s heart. Can it work for others?

Somewhere in Peter Maercklein’s heartbeat was an abnormality no one could find. He survived a stroke 15 years ago, but doctors never saw anything alarming on follow-up electrocardiograms. Then, one day last fall, an artificial intelligence algorithm read his EKGs and spotted something else: a ripple in the calm that indicated an elevated risk of atrial fibrillation.

Specifically, the algorithm, created by physicians at Mayo Clinic, found Maercklein had an 81.49% probability of experiencing A-fib, a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to heart failure and stroke. Just days later, after Maercklein agreed to participate in a research study, a wearable Holter monitor recorded an episode of A-fib while he was walking on a treadmill.

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