New help for congestive heart failure patients

November 28, 2012 2:54:31 PM PST
After several heart attacks, the heart's pumping function drops below normal and fluid backs up in the lungs. It's called congestive heart failure, and doctors are testing a new treatment.

Heart failure patients live on a fine line between decent heart function one day and shortness of breath the next. Too much salt in the diet or too few of the drugs they take can tip them into a severe attack. To prevent repeated hospital stays, doctors around here are studying an experimental device implanted in the heart.

Dr. Timothy Mahoney recently threaded a catheter into the damaged heart of 74 year old Robert D'Ambola. It's a new approach to Mr. D'Ambola's heart failure. We spoke with him just before the surgery about his hopes for a better quality of life.

"They claim they're going to be able to adjust my medication before I get into any trouble," he said.

After heart bypass surgery and eleven stents, Mr. D'Ambola's heart function is borderline. Just one or two salty meals may quickly overload the heart, and push it beyond the control of his drugs. But this device will help doctors keep a twice daily check on exactly how is heart is doing.

"The hope is that if we can more closely monitor the function and pressure in the heart, we can more quickly change the patients regimen so we can stop them getting severe symptoms or requiring hospitalization," Dr. Mahoney said.

A blood pressure increase inside the heart is the first sign of worsening failure. The pressure gauge can pick it up.

A metal tip sits in the heart's upper chamber and measures the pressure. The info is transmitted through a wire to a gadget which sits under the skin and a device the size of a cell phone records the information and transmits it to the doctor's office.

A quick adjustment of medications can prevent a hospital stay and the drowning sensation from a failing heart.

"It's just a horrible, horrible feeling and I pray that this thing does what it's supposed to do so I don't have to go through that again, by the grace of God," D'Ambola said.

Doctors don't even have to call the patient to ask that he change his medications. A text on the cell phone does that. Morristown Medical Center is one of only two places in our area studying this device.

If you'd like to be part of the study, please contact Morristown Medical Center at 973-971-5951.

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