New device brings heart monitoring to patient's bedside

October 5, 2012 12:39:48 PM PDT
The crucial moments after a person has heart surgery can mean the difference between life and death. Now, a first of its kind device is helping doctors monitor heart patients like never before.

For Vanessa Neely-Peterson, it's the little things like washing her own dishes that she doesn't take for granted anymore.

"I appreciate life," the heart attack survivor said. "I look at life differently."

Her son Rasheen remembers the night his mom almost died.

"She called me and fussed me out, saying why I didn't do the dishes and stuff like that," he said.

Soon after, Vanessa had a massive heart attack.

"Twenty doctors for five minutes apiece pumped my heart," Neely-Peterson said.

After bypass surgery, doctors used a first-of-its-kind device to monitor Neely-Peterson's cardiac function right at the bedside, without wheeling her to another room for an echo-cardiogram.

"This now really allows us a minute-to-minute evaluation of the patient as we change medical management," explained Nicholas Cavarocchi, the MD Critical Care Director of Surgical Intensive Car at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Inserted into the esophagus, the hTEE probe allows doctors to watch in real-time the heart's pumping function and volume, helping them decide whether to add or subtract I-V medications in an instant.

"So with the probe, we were able to differentiate reasons for her low cardiac output syndrome, avoid a return trip to the operating room," Cavarocchi said.

"I'm so thankful that I have a second chance with my mom," Rasheen said.

A chance this family is happy to take advantage of.

The monitor can be used on patients for up to 72 hours. The doctor says it's changing how he practices medicine because it helps him make safer, more informed decisions when it comes to patient care.

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