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Implanted sensor tracks heart patient

Implanted sensor tracks heart patient
Photo: Implanted sensor tracks heart patient
A sensor implanted in patients with serious heart conditions does away with clinic visits, with the doctor able to monitor them even when they are at home.

It used to be that Susan Beck had to go see her doctor to get a check on her heart failure symptoms.

Now, Dr Ray Benza can check on her condition every day, without Beck leaving her home in another town.

A sensor implanted in Beck's pulmonary artery generates data about arterial pressure levels, a key indicator of whether her heart failure is worsening, and transmits the information for the doctor's review.

"It takes less than five minutes," said Beck, 58, a former lab worker who is one of 20 patients to be enrolled in a federally supported clinical trial at Allegheny Health Network focusing on the remote monitoring of right-sided heart failure caused by pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Dr Benza - director of the network's advanced heart failure, transplantation, mechanical circulatory support and pulmonary hypertension program - says the goal is to help patients better manage heart failure so their health does not deteriorate and they do not require costly hospital stays.

Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a severe narrowing of the arteries that carry blood from the right side of the heart to the lung. This leads to right-sided heart failure and death. Heart failure is the inability to pump as much blood as the body needs and, depending on contributing factors, can be right-sided, left-sided or both.

With remote monitoring, Dr Benza said, he could make medication changes before patients knew their condition, often characterised by fluid build-up in the lungs and shortness of breath, was worsening.

The sensor system, known as CardioMEMS and made by St Jude Medical of St Paul, Minnesota, previously was evaluated in a study of 550 patients with various types of heart failure. That study involved researchers, including Dr Benza, from 63 institutions. The study found the device helped reduce the risk of a heart failure-related hospitalisation by as much as 37 per cent.

The current, smaller trial involves only patients who have pulmonary hypertension and right-sided heart failure. Beck received the sensor Aug. 27 during a cardiac catheterisation.

Each morning, Beck lies on a special pillow. An antenna in the pillow enables the sensor to transmit arterial pressure data to Dr. Benza.

If monitoring can prevent future hospital stays, "that's great", Beck said. But she also hopes the sensor will minimise the future need for invasive and costly cardiac catheterisations, a procedure often used to assess people with heart failure.

A year ago, Beck went to the hospital with fatigue and severe shortness of breath. But with medication, she said, she had noticed a world of difference.

"I'm ill, and I know I'm ill, but I don't feel ill," she said.

Copyright AAP 2014

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