New device to monitor heart failure

December 19, 2008 4:28:38 PM PST
It's as small as a grain of rice, but it could be an important discovery for millions.Heart failure affects more than five million people in the United States, and it's the number one reason people over 70 are hospitalized. For patients, even the slightest change in diet or routine can turn into an emergency.

Now, a new kind of monitoring system keeps a closer eye on their condition at home.

For George Marra, living with heart failure means spending a lot of time in hospitals and doctor's offices. He's constantly trying to keep fluid levels in his lungs under control.

George is part of a trial for a device that's already changing his life. Doctors implant a tiny sensor that measures pressure in the pulmonary artery, which carries blood from the heart to the lungs.

"If you were a really sick patient in a hospital, we'd be measuring that with tubes going into your lungs," said interventional cardiologist Nicholas Chronos, of St. Joseph's Translational Research Institute in Atlanta, Georgia. "But this device allows us to measure that in your home."

George sends daily pressure readings to a central monitoring site.

"In the morning, I get up and go in and lay on the pillow, and it takes a reading and transmits it over the internet to St. Joe's," he said. "And if there's a problem, they let me know."

Dr. Chronos says the daily updates allow him to identify problems quicker and keep patients out of the hospital.

"Before, we'd wait for George to get sick," he said. "He would turn up in an ER, get admitted, we have given the diuretic. But now, we can phone him up every day and tell him, 'Hey, you are doing very well. Just stay where you are,' or 'You need to take some more diuretic.'"

Just a couple minutes a day keeps George's heart in check and his mind at ease.

"I can honestly say I'm even better, like the Energizer bunny," he said.

Because the remote sensor system sends information through phone lines and the internet, doctors say they're able to monitor a patient's condition almost anywhere.

The CardioMEMS trial is still recruiting heart failure patients. Anyone interested in participating can contact Brittainy Myers at 678-843-6084.

For more information on the CardioMEMS device, as well as other products, visit CardioMEMS.com.

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STORY BY: Medical reporter Dr. Jay Adlersberg

WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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