A new implantable heart monitor is helping to keep patients out of the hospital.
When Dr. Vijay Swarup greeted heart patients Patricia Parker and Richard Heiny, it was with a hearty hug and a handshake.
It’s far cry from last year when both Parker and Heiny had multiple emergency room visits because of congestive heart failure.
“I had three months in a row of it,” said Parker.
Heiny says each visit was an ordeal, “So it was usually a 2-day, 3-day procedure,” he said.
Patients go into congestive heart failure when the heart can’t keep up with the body’s needs, says Dr. Swarup, who works at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital. “Blood backs up in the lungs. It causes fluid to accumulate in the lungs as well as in the body.”
That added fluid does lead to weight gain, but, patients usually don’t feel any differently until it’s too late.” “No, you don’t, you don’t,” explains Parker. “Not until all of the sudden you say ‘oh my gosh I can’t breathe,’ and you can see the legs swelling.”
Dr. Swarup says, “Once they have gained more than 5 or 10 pounds, the oral medications don’t work, and they will need to be hospitalized to get them back to where they were.”
Heiny says that is how he ended up in the hospital, where they would have to drain the fluid.
But now, thanks to a little device, called a CardioMEMS, from St. Jude Medical, doctors, know when a patient is headed in the wrong direction, weeks before any symptoms show up. “It is a simple pressure transducer,” the doctor explains, holding up a small glass tube, with wires on each end. “So it records the pressure, and we put it in the pulmonary artery.”
That little device is about the length of a paper clip, and is implanted in the artery. Each day the patient lays down on this pillow-like device, it takes a reading and sends it to the doctor. “So it gives us a window of time when the pressures are up, but the patient has no idea,” says Dr. Swarup. “And we can act at this time before there is any significant fluid accumulation or any weight gain… and that allows us to keep these patients out of the hospital.”
Neither Parker nor Heiny has needed a trip to the ER since having the sensor implanted, meaning less damage to their hearts, and richer lives ahead. “And certainly my heart right now is not something I need to worry about, they are taking care of that,” says Parker.
“So it can only make things better and it has,” Heiny adds.
Both patients say taking the reading is simple, it takes about 5 minutes, and a small remote attached to the pillow like reader walks them through the whole process.
Even though the CardioMEMS stays in the blood vessel, Dr. Swarup says it is small enough that it does not interfere with blood flow.
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