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Alive and Kicking


Alisa Niksch, MD is a pediatric cardiologist at Floating Hospital for Children.A new app helps diagnose arrhythmia 

Alisa Niksch, MD, Director of Pediatric Electrophysiology at Floating Hospital for Children, likes to tell the story of a teenage patient who’d been regularly experiencing arrhythmia-like episodes—shortness of breath, dizziness, a racing heart. Dr. Niksch had been unable to make a definitive diagnosis in the boy because whenever he was given a heart monitor to take home for a few days, he never seemed to experience an arrhythmia episode he could record.

So Dr. Niksch introduced the boy’s family to AliveCor, an app that can turn any smartphone into a powerful heart monitor. With the app, the boy would have a monitor that he didn’t have to return and that he could take with him wherever he went. Three months later, the boy was exercising when he felt an episode coming on. “He grabbed his phone and recorded the episode,” Niksch says. “He got a perfect reading.”

Dr. Niksch was then able to diagnose the boy with an arrhythmia called supraventricular tachycardia. She then performed a heart procedure, and a year later, the boy has yet to have another episode.

When Dr. Niksch first heard about AliveCor, the product was still going through the approval process. The AliveCor company was focused exclusively on the adult market and was promoting the app as a tool for atrial fibrillation, or AF, which is the most common form of arrhythmia but is extremely rare in children. Dr. Niksch recognized that there could be important uses for kids, too. “The device works for all kinds of arrhythmia, including ones that are more commonly found in children,” she says. “I thought it could be a really interesting technology that parents and anyone who cares for children could find useful.”

Dr. Niksch reached out to the company and was sent a sample to test with her patients. Today she is a clinical adviser to the company, providing feedback on design and user experience for the pediatric market.

Dr. Niksch is available to work with pediatricians or pediatric cardiologists who are interested in learning more about AliveCor: she can be reached at 617-636-7435.

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