Can Wearables Detect Epileptic Seizures and Diabetes?

An estimated 1.3 million to 2.8 million Americans currently have epilepsy, a disorder that causes chronic seizures, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. (The CDC puts the number higher, at 3.4 million.) It’s the fourth most commonly diagnosed neurological condition, impacting Americans of all ages; each year, it also kills more than 3,000 people. What if a wearable device could not only track the deadliest seizures, but also alert a patient’s caregivers in the event of one? With the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of the Embrace, from Massachusetts-based company Empatica, patients will have access to just such a device. As mHealth Intelligence first reported, the FDA approved the wearable device following a clinical study of epilepsy patients at New York University Langone Medical Center. “The FDA approval of the Embrace device to detect major convulsive seizures represents a major milestone in the care of epilepsy patients,” Orrin Devinsky, who led the NYU study, said in an Empatica press release following the FDA decision. “The scientific evidence strongly supports that prompt attention during or shortly after these convulsive seizures can be life-saving in many cases.”

The NYU study followed 135 epilepsy patients who wore the Embrace, monitoring their brain activity with EEGs. Ultimately, they found that “Embrace’s algorithm was shown to detect 100% of the seizures,” the company’s press release notes. Empatica, which began in MIT’s Media Lab, also sought to emphasize design in developing their device. “Medical devices face a huge problem: they’re usually too bulky and uncomfortable, and people simply don’t want to wear them,” Empatica founder and CEO Matteo Lai said in the company’s press release. “We wanted to design the world’s first medical device that could win a design award, while being used as a lifesaving product.”

In other recent wearable-related news, the results of a new study shed light on some of the benefits of the devices for patients at risk of developing diabetes, which impacts more than 30 million Americans. As mHealth Intelligence reported, University of California, San Francisco researchers used an algorithm called DeepHeart, developed by the startup company Cardiogram, to examine heart-rate data from more than 14,000 wearable users. Ultimately, the algorithm had an 85 percent success rate in identifying diabetes and pre-diabetes. “While there have been many attempts to build special-purpose glucose-sensing hardware to detect diabetes, this is the first large-scale study showing that ordinary heart rate sensors—when paired with an artificial intelligence-based algorithm—can identify early signs of diabetes,” said Cardiogram co-founder Brandon Ballinger in a news release. “By detecting diabetes earlier, we can help people live longer and healthier lives.”

Click here to read the mHealth Intelligence article on the FDA’s approval of the Embrace device.

Click here to read Empatica’s press release on the FDA approval of the Embrace device. 

Click here to read the mHealth Intelligence article on the Cardiogram study results.

Click here to read Cardiogram’s press release on the study results.


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