UPDATE: This Kardia review has been updated for 2018.
I battled atrial fibrillation for nine years before I had a successful catheter ablation in March 2015. In 2014 my afib spiraled out of control. I went from having episodes once a year to having them every other week!
I was popping Flecainide as a pill-in-the-pocket treatment in the months leading up to my ablation. During that period, I stumbled upon a device that would be a game-changer in my battle against afib. That device was the AliveCor heart monitor, now called Kardia Mobile.
If you’ve read any of my posts on this blog, you know I’ve mentioned this monitor many times over the past couple years. I’m a huge fan of this device and in my opinion it’s a “must have” for all afibbers!
What is the Kardia Mobile Heart Monitor?
Before I dive into how I use the monitor and why I’ve become such a fan of it, I think I should provide an overview of what it is for those of you unfamiliar with it.
Kardia Mobile is a FDA-approved heart monitor (the hardware) and smartphone app (the software) that you can buy directly from AliveCor without a prescription. The monitor itself is about half the height of a credit card and about as thick as three stacked credit cards. Take a look:
How To Use the AliveCor Heart Monitor
Using the device is pretty straight forward. You open the app on your phone and tap the Record Now button.
After that you’re prompted to place your fingers on the monitor to begin the recording:
You can use the monitor a few different ways. You can place your fingers on the monitor while holding it in your hands or put it on a table and then place your fingers on it. You can also attach the monitor to the back of your smartphone using the attachment plate. There are also iPhone cases available on the AliveCor website.
Holding the monitor in my fingers (my preferred way of using it):
Placing the monitor on a table and then placing my fingers on it:
Attaching the monitor to the back of my iPhone and then placing my fingers on it:
Once you place your fingers on the monitor the app will start recording your ECG in real time! In the following 15-second video I demonstrate what you see on the app as soon as you place your fingers on the monitor. You’ll notice it takes a few brief seconds for the ECG signal to be established.
You have the option to take a 30 second (the default), 1 minute, 2 minute, 3 minute, 4 minute, or 5 minute recording. I recommend the 1-minute recording option because in my opinion the 30-second option is too short and anything over a minute is too long.
Are You in Afib or Not?
After your recording is complete, the filter that AliveCor built into the app will tell you immediately if your ECG indicates “possible afib” or not. If you’re in afib, you’ll get a warning that you have possible afib. If your ECG is normal, it will tell you that it’s normal.
Here are screenshots of the three potential alerts you’ll get from the Kardia monitor after taking a recording:
Possible Atrial Fibrillation:
If you have any other arrhythmia aside from atrial fibrillation, or if there was interference or “noise” during the recording, you’ll be given an unclassified alert.
After your recording is complete you can save the ECG to your journal and add a note to it. You can also share the recording by having it emailed to whoever you want such as your doctor. You can also submit the ECG to be analyzed right from the app. There are two options for this. There is a technician-only analysis which is $9 and a cardiologist review and recommendation for $19. It’s important to note that this fee is per ECG analyzed so the costs can add up quickly.
What Does the AliveCor Kardia Heart Monitor Cost?
The monitor itself can be purchased from the AliveCor store for $99.
You can buy an optional iPhone case for $10 – $15 depending on what iPhone model you have.
As I mentioned previously, you can have your ECG recordings analyzed for $9 (technician-only analysis) or $19 (cardiologist analysis and recommendation).
The basic version of the Kardia mobile app is free. You’ll also get access to the premium subscription for free for 30 days. After that the premium subscription will cost an additional $9.99/month. A premium subscription allows you to do the following (none of which are available with the free basic version):
- Record & save personal reports for your doctor
- Blood pressure tracking
- Weight and medication tracking
- Unlimited storage of all heart health data
- Historical view of your heart health data
Practical Uses of the Kardia Mobile Heart Monitor for Afibbers
1. Confirming Afib. I used the monitor extensively during the latter part of 2014 when my afib was spinning out of control. When I’d go into afib I wanted confirmation that I was indeed in afib so I knew I could safely take my Flecainide. I would then use it a few hours later to confirm that I converted to normal sinus rhythm (NSR).
I honestly don’t know what I would have done during that time if I didn’t have the monitor. I’m very symptomatic when I go into afib so I know the minute I’m in it and the minute I’m out of it but having the AliveCor to confirm everything gave me peace of mind.
2. Ablation Recovery. The other practical use was monitoring my recovery after my ablation. I used the monitor extensively during my three-month blanking period. I would take weekly recordings to make sure nothing funny was going on with my heart. Fortunately for me my recovery was uneventful but had I had any afib episodes or arrhythmia, the Kardia monitor would have caught it.
3. Monitoring PVCs/PACs & Other Arrhythmias. The way I use it today is to take ECG recordings when my heart acts up. As I’ve documented many times on this blog, I’ve been battling PVCs and PACs for several months. Sometimes these get so intense that I feel like I’m having a “minor” afib episode!
I use the Kardia monitor to make sure I’m not in afib and to make sure there is nothing serious going on other than PVCs and PACs. And when I find out it’s just PVCs and PACs I can monitor how many there are to ensure they aren’t damaging my heart (if you have too many PVCs and PACs you can develop cardiomyopathy).
What I Don’t Like About the Kardia Mobile Heart Monitor
While I LOVE this monitor and couldn’t live without it, it’s far from perfect. Here are its shortcomings:
It’s too touchy.
To get a good clean accurate ECG, you need to be perfectly still. The slightest move during a recording can throw an error or just give you a garbage ECG. And even if you’re perfectly still but just move your fingers slightly – or don’t have them perfectly on the monitor plates – you’ll get an error or a garbage ECG. There are many times when it will take 2-3 attempts to get a solid, clean one-minute ECG.
Inaccurate or misleading filter.
The AliveCor app is able to indicate if you’re in afib or not because of a filter. This filter is based on an algorithm. Unfortunately, algorithms aren’t perfect. As a result, there are times where the filter will indicate “possible afib” when you’re not in afib at all. If you’re not in afib but your ECG isn’t normal either, the filter will indicate “Unclassified.” Both scenarios aren’t ideal as it can cause a lot of stress and anxiety for an afibber:)
As a side note, the best way to get an accurate analysis is to take advantage of the ECG analysis service they provide or send the ECG to your doctor to be analyzed. Alternatively, you can take a few recordings back-to-back to see what your results are. If the first results says “Possible Afib” and the other two say normal or unclassified, you’re probably not in afib.
Also, the more you use the monitor the more you’ll be able to decipher the ECG. You’ll be able to tell if the “Possible Afib” warning is legit or just an error.
Expensive ECG analysis service (and Premium service).
Up until recently, there were three ECG analysis options and the cheapest one was only $2. There are only two options now and the cheapest one is $9 and the other one is a whopping $19. I think the prices for these are way too high. I think $5 and $10 (or even $15) would be more reasonable.
I also think the Premium service is a bit steep at $99/year. I think half that price would be more reasonable. I think most people would be fine paying $5/month or $60/year for all the Premium features but $99/year is a bit of a stretch for a consumer-level heart monitor.
Limited features for basic version of the app.
The basic version of the mobile app is very limited. You can take ECG readings but you cannot save them nor can you share them. It would be nice if the basic version of the app allowed at least some historical recording of your ECGs.
No continuous monitoring provided.
The Kardia Mobile monitor is essentially an event monitor. You manually record when you have an event. There is no way to record what’s going on while you exercise (or just move around your house) or sleep.
I understand this isn’t an inherit weakness of the device itself. Most consumer ECG heart monitors like this are event monitors. Continuous monitors typically require a prescription and are very expensive.
Still, though, it would be great if there was a way for AliveCor to develop a wearable device of some kind that would allow you to continuously record your heart for a period of time while you’re active or sleeping.
Maybe someday this will become a reality. I’m sure there are all kinds of regulation hurdles to jump over and development issues to iron out to get such a device to the consumer market that wouldn’t require a prescription or an arm and a leg to afford it, but a guy can dream, right?
What’s New with Kardia Mobile Today (and into the Future)
On September 8, 2016, AliveCor announced their partnership with Omron Healthcare. If you buy one of Omron’s Bluetooth-enabled blood pressure monitors you can connect it to the Kardia app and save your blood pressure recordings if you have a subscription to the premium app. The premium version of the app will combine your ECG data with your blood pressure data.
By regularly checking your heart rate and blood pressure (and having a history of both stored on your Kardia app), you can track trends and spot any potential heart issues sooner than later. The idea is to have a more complete picture of your heart health over a period of time.
The premium version of the Kardia app also allows you to record your weight. Again, the idea is the more data you provide about your health, the better you can track trends over time and make adjustments. For example, if your weight goes up, you may discover your blood pressure goes up too. If you spot this trend, you can make lifestyle changes to lose weight and lower your blood pressure.
AliveCor is also waiting on FDA approval of their Kardia Band for the Apple Watch. Once approved, you’ll be able to take an ECG simply by placing your thumb on the band! This will make it even easier to take recordings “on the go.”
February 2018 Update: After the KardiaBand hit the market, heart doctors at the Cleveland Clinic wanted to see how well it actually detected afib. It turns out the Kardiaband is quite useful, according to new research. Check it out.
January 2018 Update: The FDA cleared the Kardiaband on November 30, 2017 and is available for sale on the AliveCor site.
Finally, it’s important to point out that the AliveCor algorithm is a learning algorithm. As it obtains more and more data – the data coming from thousands of Kardia Mobile users taking ECG recordings – it gets smarter and smarter. This should improve the sometimes inaccurate or misleading filters I mentioned earlier. It will never be perfect but it should get much better over time.
My AliveCor Kardia Mobile Monitor Review Conclusion
Despite some of the shortcomings I mentioned in this review, it still remains (in my humble opinion) the best non-prescription, FDA-cleared heart monitor for afibbers. I honestly don’t know what I would do without mine. The convenience and peace of mind that it offers is priceless.
I always tell afibbers if they don’t already own this device they need to get one. It’s that important of a tool to have in your “afib toolbox.”
If a better device exists, I honestly don’t know about it. Feel free to shout out in the comments below if a better device exists! If a better device comes along in the future, I’ll be the first to tell you (and the first to switch to it). For now, I’m a devoted AliveCor fan!
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I was diagnosed with A-fib, 6 weeks later had the ablation process, and bought a Kardia Mobile single-lead a week after that. I also have Raynaud’s Phenomenon (cold hands). I wish that it only took 2-3 attempts to get a usable reading on the Kardia. Typically it takes me over 20 tries with at least one rest period and lots of soaking in hot water. People with Raynaud’s might want to try the 6-lead Kardia.
This was a good article. I have been very active and an athlete in college. I did martial arts and was a skiier for 10 yrs.
I had an ablation last week. I got the new Kardia Mobile 6 lead 2 weeks before my Ablation. I am able to record and keep the results on my android phone and tablet. I can print to file a PDF of the results. So, I have a record from before and after my procedure. The single lead function did not always detect the A-flutter. With the 6L it was VERY obvious. I recommend the 6L.
I was also told I could resume normal activities after a week or so. No one even mentioned the blank out period. No one explained the gradual excercise as you have. Thanks to this article, I have done some research on this. Now, I’m going to do nothing for another week. Then a little walking around my neighborhood which is flat.
I was going to begin riding a bike today. Thankfully, I came across this article. I guess I’ll just have to wait until the 3 month period is over for anything like that. I really want to have the best long term results. I’m taking a daily vitamine, 500mg of C twice daily and eating salads, veggies etc. I’ve had great health and a good diet all my life. This was a sudden dissapointing surprise. I’ve read that scar tissue is the culprit. I’ve never had a heart attack. I must have gotten that from my rough sports. Getting punched, falling down hard, excercising hard for hours etc. It reallydoesnt matter how it happend though. It happend is just a reality. So, I am assuming that there is still scar tissue and that I need to be more moderate in my excercising going forward. If it weren’t for this article, I may have gotten on my bike way too soon and wrecked my chances. I read where some bike riders took the time to heal and are riding hard again. So, it’s a good Idea to follow this healing process to the letter. Who wants to go through this long healing process again?!
Thanks for putting your experience in writing!
Glad this website was able to help you out! I just ordered the 6 lead Kardia monitor myself. It’s still in the box sitting on my desk…lol. I need to open it up and give it a test ride. Take care and I wish you a speedy and full recovery!
You’ll be happy you got it! Yeah, try it out, use both modes single and 6L. You’ll see what I mean. I have a before and after if you would like to see the difference…
Hi, my 14 year old son was recently diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. We are still learning about this condition but am wondering if/how the Kardia 6L device would be able to help him monitor his condition. He is an active kid and while we have pulled him from some of his competitive sports, I’m wondering if this device would allow him to participate in some sports safely. thank you. Rob
As I have been reading through all the information, I only have one question?
Do I have to have an IPhone to be able to use this item?
I have a smart phone. What do you think?
Just got one a few days ago. I have a Samsung Galaxy S8 phone and it works fine with it.
Can the Alive Kardia monitor tell me if my Prinzmettal Angina attack is just that or its a real heart attack. Can it really read an ECG. I’m a retired nurse and can read an ECG.
It will give you a Lead I presentation with one contact in each hand. You can also get Lead II by holding one contact in your right hand and putting the other contact on your left knee. There is a new device, a Kardia 6L, which has three contacts.
The software is designed to detect possible afib. Anything else, you’ll need to interpret the ECG yourself.
Travis – I wanted to drop you a note and let you know after my first comments on reading your Kardia review, I stopped using this product due to its limitations and restrictions.
I recently started using a SonoHealth product that I find MUCH MUCH superior to Kardia..
The SonoHealth can monitor and record your EKG WITHOUT a phone and has a color screen and rechargable battery.. it also supports many more diagnostic features.
Additionally you can simulate a much higher number of leads than just on on the fingers.
SonoHealth also does NOT restrict you on the app like Kardia.. The Kardia “basic” app does NOT allow you to keep ANY recordings in the app without paying them $30 subscription fee…
SonoHealth keeps infinite recordings… I recently dealt with theair customer care on the app and they were SUPER responsive and helped me instantly..
In short – I would skIp Kardia’s bait-n-switch scam and rather go for something like a SonoHealth product…
my 2 cents :)
Thanks for the heads up on the SonoHealth device. I’ll be sure to check it out!
1. Is it best to get a physician to recommend device(s) they are familiar with or to pick your own device and take it to any physician?
2. Do physicians have device preferences and is that important to take into consideration when making a selection?
3. Have any of the ESC or AHA guidelines endorsed any particular home, portable devices?
4. What about insurance carriers?
5. What % of the population actually use these devices?
6. How accurate are they?
7. How do these portable devices compare with office/hospital monitors?
8. With all the new tech developments on the horizon, is it better to wait a bit?
In my opinion, we are early adopters, hence not many answers to your questions. For a single lead device, my Kardia provides useful info. It is even better if you spend the time to learn how to interpret on your own. 14 years ago, I started using a Polar heart rate monitor that would record R to R (beat to beat) and learned to interpret tachograms with respect to afib, PVC’s & PAC’s. It was also useful and I still use the same approach today (with modern apps) when I want to sample for 30 minutes or overnight.
To make it easier for me to reply to all of your questions, I edited your comments to include numbers by each of your questions. Here are my answers to your questions:
1. Kardia Mobile is a consumer device. That is very different from a medical-grade, prescription-required device that you would get from a doctor. A doctor may be familiar with consumer devices and as a result, may have a preference but at the end of the day since these are just consumer devices you could go with a doctor preference or your own.
2. See my answer to #1 above.
3. I’m not aware of ESC or AHA endorsing any consumer devices but it’s possible they do (but very unlikely since these are consumer devices).
4. Very unlikely. Again, because these are consumer devices.
5. According to this article, roughly 31% of Americans wear these type of devices to monitor their heart for one reason or another (most probably NOT to detect afib, however):
6. According to this article, Kardia Mobile is 93% accurate on its own. With a doctor’s interpretation of Kardia EKGs, it goes to 99%:
7. Monitors you’d get from your doctor will have more leads (vs. single lead that the Kardia Mobile has) and are usually continuous monitors (in the case of Holter monitors). Bottom line, a doctor-prescribed heart monitor is going to give your doctor a much better picture of what is going on with your heart beyond afib detection.
8. Again, this is a consumer device and so far the Kardia Mobile device is as good as it gets right now. The Kardia Mobile heart monitor is relatively cheap and very accurate in detecting afib. If you’re looking strictly for afib-detection, it doesn’t make sense to wait.
EMAY puts out a simple monitor that works well with a computer and does not require a phone. There are no subscription fees and you can save your readings to your computer and then email to a cardiologist. It also gives a diagnosis of arrhythmia, no abnormal VPB bigeminy etc. The cost is only $79.00 on Amazon and is FDA approved medical device. EMAY also makes infertility tests and other medical tests with good reviews on line.
Thanks for the heads up on that heart monitor. I’ve never heard of it before. I linked your comments to the device on Amazon. I’ll have to check it out myself and maybe do an indepth review of it. Thanks!
I had my first attack in Oct ’17. I was placed on flecanide and potassium. Things were fine except when I forgot my potassium a few days. Arms and legs went weak and I felt like I was going to pass out. I was driving at the time. Pulled over for awhile and finally got home.
Since then, I have times when I feel woozy or light headed. Then I would get anxious and wonder if I was in AFIB or about to pass out like the first time. I came across the Kardia and it has helped. Whenever I feel “funny” I check myself. last week I had a possible fib. Sent it in for review, yep. I took it easy that evening and it cleared up during the night. Sent a message to my cardiologist and was told I should go to ER if episode was over an hour. Not yet in my mind.
The Kardia has helped, but not elevated my anxiety. It is also helping me sort out the symptoms of my AFIB. I plan on seeing and EP rather than a cardiologist. His PA gave me a prescription and a see ya in a year. I have felt adrift, especially lately.
Thanks for this blog.
Good call on seeing an EP over a cardiologist. You’ll get much better care. If you have any questions along your journey, just let me know.
I am wondering if this picks up aflutter also? I lay my phone on the table (landscape way) and lay my device very close to the phone and take mine that way. Is that a proper way to take it?
I learned so much from this site. Thank you so much for taking the time. You have helped many people.
Thanks for your kind words. I’m glad you find this site helpful!
The Kardia mobile will definitely pick up atrial flutter but it won’t tell you that. You’ll have to determine that by interpreting the EKG yourself or by having someone interpret it for you. The only automatic detection built into the device is atrial fibrillation.
First of all, ditto what Toni said…” I learned so much from this site. Thank you so much for taking the time. You have helped many people.”
Second, I have an ICD/pacemaker and a Boston Scientific Latitude home monitor so my “team” can monitor my data remotely. Obviously they pick up any “abnormalities” that may occur, including AFib, etc… so I am thinking a Kardia monitor would be redundant in my situation, correct?
Lastly, I always thought during AFib that one would have a fast heart rate (tachycardia), but I understand that isn’t always the case, is that correct?
Since I’ve been diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and now AFib, and have experienced different sensations/arrhythmias, I’ve grown to know what each different one is. When I had extended AFib w/RVR recently, it felt different than when I have non-sustained ventricular arrhythmia, PAC’s, PVC’s, etc… It didn’t necessarily feel fast, just way off beat, like one of those small really-bouncy balls trying to bounce out of my chest. I guess this is where a Kardia monitor would come in handy, if only for my personal curiosity.
Thanks, Cheryl, for your kind words.
I would not recommend the Kardia monitor in your situation. It would definitely be redundant and wouldn’t be anywhere near as useful as the data you are getting with your home monitor.
The Kardia also wouldn’t help you with your personal curiosity either unless you can read EKGs. The Kardia is built specifically to detect afib. If you have any other arrhythmia such as PVCs, PACs, etc. the Kardia will return an “Unclassified” reading. You then have to look at the EKG (or send it to your doctor) to determine what you are experiencing.
If the Kardia could detect PVCs or PACs, then it might be worth considering if you’re just curious but unfortunately, it doesn’t. I do hope they provide that feature in the future.
You are correct about afib and tachycardia. The two don’t always go together. For some people, they just have an irregular heartbeat. They don’t necessarily experience tachycardia.
I hope I have answered all of your questions!
Thank you very much, Travis! Very helpful and informative info!
Thanks for the great review. I suffered a heart attack and cardiac arrest 6 months ago and ever since I’ve had intermittent chest pains. I have never been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation though. Apparently chest pains after a heart attack are fairly common.
Can the Kardia be used during one of these chest pain episodes to confirm whether or not I’m having a heart attack or not?
Sorry to hear about your heart attack. Glad you’re still with us:) The Kardia device does NOT help detect heart attack or cardiac arrest. It’s sole purpose is to detect atrial fibrillation – period.
I wish you well!
There seems to be an implied assurance that the Kardia is more than what you say…”period”
This is the first bullet from the Kardia page on their site:
“FDA-cleared, clinical grade mobile EKG monitor: Kardia captures a medical-grade EKG in 30 seconds anywhere, anytime.”
To me that statement strongly implies that it is more than just an atrial fibrillation detector. If it were just an A-Fib detector, there would be no need to show the actual wave form. Simple idiot lights would be all you need.
It likely is heavily filtered to get rid of 60 cycle interference and minimize baseline muscle artifact rendering it a non-diagnostic device while still letting one see significant signs of other arrhythmias needing attention by the physician.
For example, I periodically send my EKG to my cardiologist as we try various things to reduce my number of PVCs. They are VERY obvious in the strips. I am frequently in bigeminy for several hours and sometimes with couplets for an hour or so. But most of the time I am clean with around 20 or less random PVCs per minute.
There was a time a few weeks ago where I was throwing upwards of 14,000 per day as reported by my pacemaker when it was interrogated. Daily dosage of Metoprolol knocked it down to where it is now. I take my EKG several times during my 2 hour roller skating sessions where I am quite aggressive. I have just sent a pdf binder of six 30-second recordings showing different heart rates and random PVCs while when I rest a few minutes while skating. I skate 3 days a week doing dances.
So, I think you are selling the device short when you emphatically say it is an a-fib detector..period…without explaining the nature of the disclaimer for the device.
You bring up a great point so please allow me to clarify. The Kardia monitor is definitely everything they advertise it to be – a FDA-cleared CLINICAL-grade EKG monitor. That is to say, it will definitely capture various arrhythmias beyond just afib.
However, their automatic filter/algorithm only accounts for atrial fibrillation. For regulatory reasons they are not allowed to say the device “detects” anything beyond afib. If you have SVT, for example, it will record that on the EKG but its filter won’t be able to tell you that. You’ll have to determine that by interpreting the EKG yourself or by having a doctor interpret it.
When I say its sole purpose is to detect afib, that is indeed what its purpose is. However, if you know how to interpret EKGs or are willing to pay to have the EKG interpreted (or have your doctor do it), it will certainly capture any arrhythmia beyond afib!
Can the Kardia mobile data be uploaded into a computer? We’ve just received it and do not have a smartphone/android of any type. We are using this on the advice of my cardiologist after suffering a stroke without any definite cause but he suspects afib.
You cannot use the Kardia device without a smartphone – either Apple or Android.
I had two different wave lengths in a 30 seconds and it says normal, what does the two short wave means?
Without seeing the ECG it’s impossible to say but it could just be a simple PAC (premature atrial contraction).
Remember, if you have Bradycardia and can’t read an ECG the Kardia isn’t going to help much. I have Afib, and when not in Afib (most of the time), my heart rate is below 50. I can do a basic reading of the ECG and know that it’s steady and thus I’m not in Afib.
Great point! if you have bradycardia OR tachycardia and can’t read an ECG (or are unwilling to pay someone to interpret it or send it to your doctor) then the Kardia should not be purchased. It’s best for people who want to know if they are in afib or not – period.
My mom was recently diagnosed with Afib after having a stroke in Dec. On average she has a low resting heart rate and can tolerate being in the 40s. Most would consider that bradycardia. Would a Kardia work for her to help identify if she is in Afib?
You’ll want to confirm this with AliveCor but I believe as long as your mom is in afib the Kardia device will alert you of potential afib. In other words, it doesn’t matter how slow her heart rate is as long as she’s in afib the Kardia “afib filter” will catch it.
However, if she’s not in afib it will give you an “Unclassified” alert. Unless you know how to read an EKG or can have someone else read it (i.e. your doctor) you may not know what is going on – normal sinus rhythm, PVCs, PACs, etc. The reason for this is the Kardia filter returns “unclassified” for any heart rate lower than a certain number. For some reason I think that number is 52 beats per minute but I’m not 100% certain. You can disable the unclassified alert though.
Now that the Kardiaband is out, is this a good and helpful product for the average older person – say with high blood pressure, cardiac issues that are non a-fib, etc., or would it be a waste of money?
Given the criteria you’ve outlined, I would NOT recommend it. The Kardia device – either the handheld monitor or the Kardiaband – is really meant for people with atrial fibrillation since its primary filter is looking for afib specifically. If you have any other arrhythmia, it is not going to tell you what the issue is. You’ll either have to know how to interpret an ECG or you’ll have to have your doctor interpret it (or pay to have it interpreted through the app directly).
Bottom line, I’d save your money:)
Remember for those with the original release of the iWatch, it wont work with the Kardia band.
“If you have any other arrhythmia aside from atrial fibrillation, or if there was interference or “noise” during the recording, you’ll be given an unclassified alert.”
When I take a 57 deg F bath for 20 minutes, my pulse drops below 50 BPM and my ECG will be labeled “unclassified.” Even though there is nothing wrong but a slow pulse.
I have an appointment shortly with my cardiologist and plan on discussing this device with him. My question is I don’t have an iPhone. I have an Android. Am I able to get the app with that phone?
Yes. The app is available on iPhone or Android. Have a good appointment with your cardiologist!
If I ask my son to send me one from the US can I use it in Australia?
I’m a cardiologist and I’ve been using AliveCor/Kardia to help monitor my patient’s atrial fibrillation for many years. Your’s is an excellent review of the how the device works. Your readers may be interested in the series of posts I have written over the years on the advantages and disadvantages of AliveCor on my Skeptical Cardiologist Blog.
I encourage my afib patients to obtain an AliveCor or AfibAlert device to help us monitor their afib and several dozen now regularly make recordings that I can review online.
I am troubled, however, that as of about 6 months ago, new adopters of AliveCor have to pay for the Premium service in order for me to see their tracings online.
It is nice that my early adopter patients have been grandfathered in and do not have to pay (as of now) for keeping their old recordings accessible.
I was interested in the work arounds suggested in the comments (such as taking screen shots) and if your readers have any other suggestions/experiences in the post-Premium AliveCor era.
I share your same frustrations. I know they have to charge *something* for what they provide but I do wish they had some lower-tier pricing options, or provide more functions with the basic service.
I encourage people to contact AliveCor and let them know you’re not happy with the Premium pricing. Maybe if enough people say something they’ll make some changes!
I just discovered this review and thank you for this. I saw a commercial for this product and being the skeptic that I am I started doing some research.
I had an aortic dissection that was successfully repaired with emergency open heart surgery a little over 6years ago. One of the byproducts of that surgery was afib which eventually had to be addressed with an ablation.
Another byproduct is the most likely never ending fear it will all happen again but on the right side of the grass so I’ll take it!
I did want to point out that, although I agree the cost is a bit egregious it is still WAY cheaper than a panic visit to the emergency room or even the EP.
The device and the yearly monitoring can also be paid for using ones HSA, FSA or HRA. I realize not everyone may have access to those services depending on employment plans but I didn’t see those options mentioned and thought it worth a mention. At least you can use pre-tax money and if set up to come out of your pay and corresponding accounts automatically then the money pain is felt over time as opposed to lump sums monthly or annually.
Just wanted to mention that. Great review Travis and I look forward to your updates.
You bring up some great points! I agree with them 100%. While it’s not as cheap as it used to be it’s still cheaper than a trip to the ER or getting a prescription heart monitor from your doctor.
Congratulations, by the way, on your successful ablation!
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
I bought the Kardia Mobile because I was diagnosed with A-Fib 5 years ago and have been symptom free for 3 years. During the past 4 months I have had 4 episodes of racing heart. When I went to the emergency room, they found a normal healthy heart.
I thought the Kardia Mobile was the answer for me so that I could put my fears to rest upon taking the EKG. To my dismay, when my beats reach 120 or 130, the Kardia Mobile gives me an unclassified finding and the report says: “This EKG recording falls outside of the current categories of the Kardia Instant Analysis detectors. One common reason for receiving an Unclassified response is if your heart rate is outside of our normal range of 50 to 100 (print covered up by yellow box saying Interpretation available 24/7) __________ minute.”
So it apparently does NOT track A-Fib over 100 beats per minute.
The Kardia device is specifically designed to detect afib. If you have afib – regardless of your rate – it will say, “Possible Afib.” I used it a number of times when I had my afib episodes and my heart rate was always 120-150 beats per minute. Every time it said, “Possible Afib.”
It gets tricky, however, if you have a heart rate outside their parameters and you’re NOT in afib. Kardia doesn’t have an automated filter to detect that. As a result, you’ll get “Unclassified.” In this scenario you likely don’t have afib but obviously you might have other issues going on – i.e. bradycardia, tachycardia, etc. I got the “Unclassified” reading a lot. When that happens you have two options. Take advantage of the ECG analysis service within the Kardia app (for an additional fee) or send it to your doctor for analysis. I always used the ECG analysis service within the app. They give you the results within an hour usually! When I did that it would always come back with PVCs, PACs, bradycardia, etc. but never afib.
Bottom line, if you are in afib the Kardia device will almost always catch it no matter how slow or fast your heart is beating. It’s filter is built specifically to look for afib. If you’re not in afib but have a heart rate lower than 50 or more than 100 then you’ll get the “Unclassified” reading – which you then have to turn to someone else to interpret the ECG (unless you know how to do ECG interpretation yourself).
You can look for a “p” wave, which is the hump before the main QRS wave. The absence of a “p” wave is diagnostic of afib. The standard way to hold the AliveCor/Kardia with an electrode in each hand tends to minimize the amplitude of the “p” wave. To enhance this, I hold one electrode with my right thumb and put the other on my left hip (or lower on the leg if you care to). This gives a slightly different presentation. Not sure if the link will go through on the comment, but you can search on p wave alivecor and then choose images. See: https://theskepticalcardiologist.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/ma-paf-pvc2.png?w=474&h=428
Another hallmark is the variability in beat rates. If the distance between the “r” peaks is highly variable, this commonly is afib. If it is pretty consistent, it is not (though could be flutter). Here is an example: https://theskepticalcardiologist.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-5-37-42-am.png
The 2nd ecg looks like a-fib to me because of the r variability even though it says unclassified. Is it?
Hey George! Thanks for your comments and help.
Just fyi…when someone leaves links in comments they go into a queue for me to review. If I don’t do that my blog will get overrun by spammers. I easily get 25+ spam comments everyday with links to porn sites, etc. I point this out so that if you post comments with links your comments won’t go live until I manually approve them.
Have a Happy New Year!
Here are the links I found after doing the search you suggested. Very useful information, thank you.
I can see the missing p wave on your screen although the T wave is fairly visible. However, when I look at my ecg it seems the most obvious issue is the short/long/short/…. pattern. I do not really see a p wave or a T wave. Also, the KardiBand ecg seems noisier. I am going to try the hip technique.
You can email the ECG recording to yourself from the app. I do that, and then print them out and take to my cardiologist appointment. I do not have afib, I have IST, POTS and SVT and I use it to try to capture events.
Thanks for sharing that tip, Jean!
I am a cardiologist and have been unofficially promoting AliveCor for years. Hundreds of my patients have the device and it has been an extraordinary benefit for diagnosis and peace of mind.
It is unfortunate that their new business model forces users to pay $120/year in order to record their tracings. This after the user has already paid for the device. New versions even prevent screen shots. I no longer advise the use of this device.
I share your frustration but I just want to point out a couple things. You can get the Premium service for $99/year vs. $120/year if you pay annually. That’s still pretty expensive, I know, but it’s still a savings nonetheless.
Second, this device still remains the best consumer-grade EKG monitor. During my afib journey I’ve had my fair share of prescribed heart monitors. I paid over $2,000 for just 14 days of monitoring. Given the out-of-control healthcare costs these days, paying $99 (or even $120) a year for some peace of mind and convenience is a drop in the bucket.
I’m not saying I like the $99/year fee but compared to the alternative out there right now it’s still the cheapest option.
I will have to do some research on A-FIB after reading your reviews.
My wife has A-FIB. It is continuous and not treatable except maybe an ablation might work. As far as I know, A-FIB is not symptomatic with any physical awareness and not deadly. Except, it will cause blood to clot and thereby can cause a stroke which is why she is on Eliquis every day for life.
I’m interested in the monitor because my pacemaker has reported over 14,000 PVCs in a 24 hour period and I’m taking 50 mg of Metoprolol per day to keep them down to about 3,000 per 24 hours. They were pretty intense with sensations in my neck.
Sorry to hear about your wife’s persistent atrial fibrillation. As bad as it might be, it’s definitely treatable by an ablation. Just make sure she goes to an experienced EP if she goes down that road.
PVCs can be very troublesome and annoying at times. If your pacemaker is taking recordings you may not need the Kardia monitor. The pacemaker is going to be more accurate and will provide a longer recording.
Sorry I mislead you. My pacemaker does not read nor send ekg recordings. It only compiles a count of PVCs per a period of time and reports that when queried remotely.
I have been having irregular heart beats since 2014. Sometimes I go months without a symptom. I was originally assessed with a virus that attacked my heart but I still have episodes, sometimes triggered by stress, lack of sleep, or too much caffeine. My doctor has recommended this device to me. My question is this, I will sometimes wake up at 2, 3 am with irregular heart beat. It would be nice to clarify what’s going on. If I use this device and want to have a tech read it at that hour is it possible? I also see that it may not register if you are having a heart attack, just afib. Is that correct? Thanks for the review.
Hello Kim – Sorry to hear about your cardiac irregularities, trust me, I know this can be stressful and can cause you to feel very anxious.
This application only checks for AFIB in terms of auto diagnosis.. But- with a PAID subscription you can submit your reading to their medical professionals for additional $20 i think per incident and they will take 24hrs to reply.. I did that once with my PVC’s and and they pretty much came back and just said Its abnormal and I need to go see a cardiologist.. There is no option to discuss with someone on the phone, etc.
The one option I would recommend is for you to record one of these incidents and e-mail yourself the EKG report and print it out and take it to your doctor or cardiologist for analysis.
If you are experiencing a cardiac event and have ANY doubt and wether you think its an emergency or not, PLEASE go the the ER immediately or call 911 – they can put you on a 12 lead EKG and will tell you.
In my review I show a screenshot of the EKG analysis options. The $9 option provides a reading and analysis within an hour – and it doesn’t matter what time of the day you request the service. I’ve used this option many times myself in the middle of the night.
This monitor definitely will NOT detect a heart attack!!
I purchased the device and it did show I was in AFIB but the customer service is not not good and they do not return calls. I have made several calls asking how to email or print and They do not know how. They tell you to call tech support who does not call back.
I agree. Their customer service is not the greatest. I wish they would invest more money in it.
Thanks so much for your info. I just purchased the device and it’s not working. I checked the battery and it’s dead. Got a new one but I cannot figure out how to snap the round piece over the battery back in. Anybody changed their battery? Suggestions!
I’ve had the device for 3 years, but the app is newly upgraded. As far as I can tell, all my old readings are in the “Journal” section – I do daily readings. Also I have the option of emailing the PDF to myself (or whoever) – a workaround if the app doesn’t save readings. I do not pay nor ever have paid a subscription fee. Perhaps I’m grandfathered on the app?
I’m 95% certain we were grandfathered in. Anyone that was using the app prior to them rolling out the premium subscription service got it for free. Basically anyone that was using the app when it first came out got grandfathered in.
My app reverted after 30 days to “basic” which does not allow you to save any readings to your phone. Once you exit out of the EKG capture screen, it’s gone forever. Yes, it seems that I can export to PDF and the work around is every time I create an EKG, I have to remember to email a PDF to myself or it’s lost forever and store/catalog it somewhere myself. I would bet they will be removing this workaround on the next update too.
Here is a pic I took of my phone with another phone to show you no recordings are being saved to the device.
Imagine if Apple wouldn’t allow you to save photos you take with your phone and you have to email it to yourself every time you snap a pic…crazy!
Thanks for the screenshots, Jack. Like I said, I agree with you. Kardia isn’t perfect but I’ll repeat what I said. It’s the best device right now that’s currently available.
I’m hopeful they’ll make changes to their app or at least make the premium service more affordable. But in the scheme of things, even if I have to fork over $120 for the premium app, it’s still way cheaper and more convenient than getting a heart monitor from my doctor that requires a prescription.
If you find a better device that is less expensive, please let me know!
Indeed–as an early adapter I get the premium services for free for life. I do think that they need to recalibrate their plan. Maybe charge a bit more up front but at least offer journaling services for all users. As far as customer service goes, its been okay for me. There have been times where responses have been fast and helpful–others when its taken a bit of time.
I bought this monitor for $100 and it works great! BUT – after thirty days, AliveCor cripples your device if you dont pay $10 per month extortion fee.. You can only view the last EKG, provided you didnt close the EKG.. you can save it to your device…
So – You are NOT allowed to save EKG’s on YOUR own device.. In order to keep EKG’s saved on YOUR own personal device, you must pay AliveCor $10 per month..
What??? You have to be kidding me.. Its kinda like saying Google and Apple only allows you to view the last photo you took with your phone and asks you to pay $10 per month if you want to save pictures to your phone that you took..
Absolutely ridiculous sham!! $100 for a device that is now crippled!!! SHAME on you!!
Thanks for the reminder about the premium app ($9.99/month) vs. the free basic app. I have updated my review accordingly.
I understand your frustration and I agree that there is a huge gap between the basic version and the premium version. There should be more features for the basic version or the premium version should be cheaper. I think even $60/year, or $5/month would be fair but I agree that $10/month, or $120 is quite a steep price for the premium features. If enough people stop paying for the premium app I would imagine they would eventually have to lower the price but we shall see what they do.
Having said all this, until a better device comes along I’m still a fan of the Kardia monitor.
P.S. One thing you could do as a work around is take a screenshot of your ECG results with your phone. On the iPhone you do this by pressing the Sleep/Wake button and the home button at the same time.
Agreed – This device is a game changer and I am a huge fan! Really just too bad they cripple it with requiring a subscription to save an EKG to your own device.. Poor choice in business models to cripple a $100 device after 30 days..
P.S. They actually DISABLED the “screenshot” feature. Yes, that’s right, they wont even allow you to take a screenshot of an EKG. Take a look at the screenshot of my phone here.
I contacted Kardia support and they said you can “export to PDF” to your device, but once you close the EKG it’s gone forever unless you export it.
Now that’s just stupid. I hope AliveCor checks this review and the subsequent comments. $120 for a premium app is probably one of the most expensive mobile apps I’ve seen. I’ve paid $40 for premium apps but I don’t know that I would ever pay $120.
They need to rework this business model. They either need to reduce the premium service by half (at least) or give basic users the ability to at least save X number of ECGs.
Like I said, if enough people stop paying for the premium service I would think they would be forced to make some changes.
I purchased this monitor and it did not work. Thinking that perhaps the battery was bad, I purchased a new battery and it still did not work. I called customer service right away and got an answering machine, which I left a message. Three days later I got a call back that went into my voice mail.
After calling a number of times and getting the answering machine (even though it was during open hours), I finally got a person. He told me that the product was not compatible with my phone (Motorola Droid Maxx). He further informed me that since it was 31 days past the purchase date (purchased 1/29, finally spoke to a person on 3/7), he could not refund my money.
I’ll leave it up to your best judgment whether you want to do business with a company that practices this type of awful customer service after the sale.
Sorry to hear about your recent experience with AliveCor. I’ve had nothing but great experiences with them. No company is perfect. It does clearly state on their website that the return policy is good for 30 days. Having said that, if I was running the company I would probably grant a refund on the 31st day:) I think it’s petty of them to deny you a refund for being just one day past the 30-day return period – especially when you tried calling them a few days prior to the 30-day period ending! Definitely a bad decision on their end.
If your monitor is “like-new,” which presumably it is, I’ll buy it from you. Contact me via my contact page and we’ll figure something out.
Thanks, Travis. Currently, I’m pursuing remedies with the BBB and disputing my credit card charge. If those fail, I’ll take you up on your kind offer. I’ll even throw in the extra battery.
Sounds good. If all else fails, contact me. Thanks.
Alivecor contacted me and offered a full refund and sent a prepaid mailing label. I’m satisfied with their customer service now. Thanks for your kind offer.
That’s awesome to hear! Take care!
Question for everyone. I have afib and I have successfully used this heart monitor for the last year. I have not had many afib bouts but when I do this confirms it and I treat it with flecainide and monitor that my heart returns to a normal rhythm.
Recently, I developed another problem and they inserted a pacemaker which of course does not mange the Afib. Since my implant, I seem to have trouble getting clean readings. I keep getting interference and it takes quite awhile to get a good reading. The maker of the pacemaker says it should not interfere with this device. Does anyone have any experience or help for me?
You bring up a great question…can this monitor be used with a pacemaker? Thank you for raising the issue because I didn’t even think of it. I dug into their support documents and this is a direct quote from AliveCor’s website:
“Kardia Mobile has not been tested for accuracy with EKG recordings taken from users with pacemakers. We cannot recommend Kardia Mobile for users with pacemakers or ICDs because we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the resulting EKG readings.”
This should give you your answer. Sorry to hear you can’t use it anymore. I’ll have to see if there are other monitors that can be used for people with pacemakers.
P.S. Now that I think of it, a good friend of mine has afib and a pacemaker and he uses the AliveCor without any issues. Maybe it depends on what kind of pacemaker you have? I suppose it’s hit or miss.
I find that wetting (in my case, with my tongue) my fingers makes a better connection and cleaner readings…
Excellent tip! I do the same thing. I lick my fingers just slightly before putting them on the sensors. It definitely helps. I forgot to mention that in my review. Thanks!
You can also use a very small amount of electrode gel on the sensor if you prefer but that’s not terribly convenient and it can get messy.
Thanks for your kind words. You are 100% correct about using these personal heart monitor devices with caution. I went through an “obsession phase” as well at one point in my journey where I was checking my pulse all the time as well. It’s a natural thing to do for most of us when our hearts aren’t functioning like they should. But you’re right, you don’t want to be checking your pulse constantly or it will drive you crazy!
Glad to hear the entrainment videos are helping. Have a Happy New Year and best of health to you!
I’m a retired paramedic with Afib also. Yes, your waveform is accurate under 50. The electrical signals from your heart are coming through fine, the algorithm just won’t handle any interpretation.
I’m listening to your entrainment recording which I found while looking for human heartbeats. I had a bad gallstone attack last night and it triggered an afib episode. I’ve had two successful cardioversions since I first went out of rhythm in November of 2013 and am on Soltalol. I hate being on heart drugs.
I’m upset about this latest episode as I’ve been solid as a rock for more than a year. Trying to remain calm as I have terrible anxiety in general and tend to freak out about stuff. You know, I get scared. Almost went to the ER last night but heart seemed to be moving into normal so decided to sleep on it.
This morning at dawn it’s worse..that quivering feeling. Just took some magnesium citrate (Natural Calm) and am going back to sleep listening to your heartbeats. I wish I had a warm human heart to snuggle up with. That seems the best.
Glad to find this recording as it’s longer than any I found when looking last year. It’s kind of rapid though! But solid and that’s what matters now. If it doesn’t kick in today I will have to go to the ER. Would like to avoid that if I can.
I like the personal EKG. That is quite amazing and empowering! As long as we don’t obsess about it, which I did my fair share of during my first year of this heart journey. I was worried and taking my pulse all the time instead of just relaxing.
Thank you for sharing your experience strength and hope with us. I like your positive spirit. Finding you feels really good right now and helps me to feel I’m not alone with this heart rhythm. I am an ultra sensitive person. You seemed pretty tuned into your body. This is empowering as long as we don’t obsess about it. :).
Thank you Travis and God Bless all who are reading this. Wishing you all a happy healthy heart! Thank you for the support. Very much needed.
Great review—I have one question. When I use Kardia, I often get an unclassified response because my heart beat is often below 50. My doctor isn’t concerned (I tended towards a low bpm before Afib set in).
I have one question, is my wave form still accurate, even though Kardia has it programmed to treat anything under 50 as unclassified?
Thanks, and thanks for all the great info.
I have read your review and I like the idea of being able to monitor my heart rate to confirm when I am having an afib episode. That being said I have two apps on my phone that I use (Heart Rate Monitor by Azumio and Photo Afib Detector) which seem to provide most of the same benefits as far as confirming to me that I am in afib and also when I’m back in NSR. I am not able to send the info to my cardiologist or have it reviewed by anyone but that is not so important to me. My question to you is, if I’m not that concerned with sharing the info with my doc why would it be worth the expense of buying the AliveCor monitor over just using the monitors that I am now?
Just to provide a little history, I’ve had afib for about six years and had an unsuccessful ablation in Jan. 2015. After the ablation the episodes decreased from one every 2 weeks or so to one every two months, but are now back to approximately every other week. The only meds I take are Metoprolol and an adult aspirin daily. I’m going to be wearing a monitor for two weeks starting tomorrow and it’s possible that there will be changes made to my meds after that.
Thanks for your blog. I appreciate what you’re doing and find it helpful to read about yours and others experiences with afib.
I haven’t heard of the heart monitor apps you mentioned so I’m not familiar with them at all. I did check out their websites, however.
Those apps you pointed out aren’t FDA-approved and they don’t have an automatic “afib filter” like the Kardia monitor has (that I could tell anyway). They also don’t provide “medical-grade” ECGs like the AliveCor app provides. And as you already pointed out, the apps you’re using don’t allow you to share your ECGs with your doctor or get them analyzed by a cardiologist within the app itself like the Kardia does.
If you’re confident in the accuracy of the apps you’re using and you know how to spot afib on an ECG – and you don’t need the additional features such as sharing your ECGs or having them analyzed – then there would be no need to buy the Kardia device if you like the apps you’re using.
Thanks for sharing the apps you’re using. I’ll have to look into those and do a review of them as well! That’s what I love about this blog. I learn something new everyday from my readers!!
the discount link does not work.
Thank you so much for letting me know! I had a few people email me as well:(
The links are working now and you should be all set. Thanks again for letting me know.
My husband bought this for me after my ablation and it really helps to ease my fears. I am still having the PVCs which are annoying. On Tuesday will be 3 months since my surgery. I’m suppose to do the 2 weeks of a heart monitor and then they tell me if I can stop taking my meds. I’m trying to just deal with these PVCs but they are so disturbing at times. I know from reading your blog you have dealt with similar PVCs. How can I just get to the mental state of saying this is ok because it doesn’t feel ok at times.
Congrats on your ablation. From the sounds of it, it sounds like things are going pretty well (aside from those nasty PVCs). I don’t know how often you get your PVCs, but for me they come and go in waves. Typically, I’ll get them really bad for a 2-4 day period and then they disappear for 2-4 days (or longer). Because I get breaks from them I remind myself when they are bad that I’ll be rewarded with some goods days “right around the corner.” Knowing their is light at the end of the tunnel helps me stay calm and relaxed when they are bad. If I had them nonstop all the time I would probably be a nervous wreck!
The other thing that helps me stay calm when they are bad is using my AliveCor monitor. As long as I don’t see PVCs in a row, I’m good. PVCs are only potentially dangerous if they are consecutive (i.e. regular heart beat, pvc, pvc, pvc, regular heart beat, etc.) On my really bad days every other beat is a PVC or PAC (i.e. regular heart beat, PVC/PAC, regular heart beat, PVC/PAC, etc.). As long as they aren’t in a row I can keep my cool because I know I’m not in danger – even though I feel like crap! That’s why I love the Kardia monitor so much. It gives me peace of mind.
My doctor has also reassured me that my heart is healthy and strong and that from what he sees he has no concerns about my PVCs or PACs at this time. I keep repeating that to myself when they are bad. That helps too!
I wish you the best. If you’re having some bad days with those PVCs, feel free to reach out to me via my contact page. Sometimes it just helps to tell somebody you’re having a bad day of PVCs and you need to be assured everything is cool:)
Thanks so much. I totally relate to everything you’ve said about the pvcs. This machine helps me to chill out when I see it’s just a pvc. I tend to have 3 pvcs in a 30 second span when they do happen. If I’m tired they are worse and if my electrolytes are off they feel stronger. I’m using a magnesium spray oil now. Seems to help me a lot.
I’m on my second week now if a heart monitor to see of my ablation was a success. I can’t wait to hear the results
I hope your pvcs are calming down for you. Every time I get depressed about them I think of what you said and it helps a lot.
Have a great day.