It was a typical Saturday morning.
Angela Watschke was shuffling some of her kids around four years ago while the others were at home. Her then-2-year-old daughter, Abrielle, was lying on the bed when she started slipping off as her eyes rolled back. The toddler was experiencing cardiac arrest.
One of Watschke's daughters texted her asking for help. The color faded from Abrielle as her father performed CPR and called 911. When Watschke arrived home, she found her street filled with ambulances and paramedics. She and her husband clung to each other until finally, someone said Abrielle was breathing on her own.
The hospital wasn't sure what to do with the toddler. They sent Abrielle to another emergency room nearby, where doctors informed Watschke her daughter had a heart condition called long QT syndrome.
"I had no idea a normal, healthy 2-year-old in literally one moment to the next could go from perfectly fine to heart stop," said Watschke, who lives near Minneapolis.
Named for the abnormal electrical wave patterns that characterize it, LQTS causes dangerously fast irregular heartbeats in response to stress and exercise, according to the National Institutes of Health. Many people don't know they have it until it causes them to faint or have seizures.
Artificial intelligence could change that.
AliveCor, a medical device start-up, and Mayo Clinic used artificial intelligence to identify LQTS in patients whose EKG results appear normal. Their findings from a study, published in an abstract Thursday at the Heart Rhythm Scientific Sessions conference, found the technology accurately diagnoses the genetic condition 79 percent of the time.
It could one day help doctors diagnose the condition earlier and more accurately than they currently can. It could also help consumers access tests more easily than they can now.
"I will submit that when the QT interval is caught in our patients early. This will be a life-saving modifier that we will have come upon," said Dr. Michael Ackerman, Abrielle's doctor and director of Mayo Clinic's Genetic Heart Rhythm Clinic and the Windland Smith Rice Sudden Death Genomics Laboratory.