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Cardiac implant helps patient outsmart heart failure

February 08, 2016 | Patricia Harriman
Anatomy of the heart

Identifying heart failure can be tricky. Many times it’s only after experiencing a heart attack or stroke that people find out they have heart failure. For those aged 65 and older, heart failure is the number one reason for hospitalization; within six months, a new onset of symptoms will land more than 50 percent of them back in the hospital.

For nearly a year, 85-year-old John Shurtleff’s CardioMEMS Heart Failure System has helped him outsmart the subtle signs of heart failure, and avoid another hospital stay.

The wireless CardioMEMS system enables Shurtleff’s cardiologist, Dr. Dawn Lombardo, to remotely monitor his pulmonary artery pressure and heart rate measurements. She knows right away if there is a heart-related issue and can intervene before the problem gets worse.

System detects symptoms before patient does

Heart failure can be frustrating, Lombardo says, because changes in pulmonary artery pressure are an early indicator of heart problems, but the symptoms patients experience can take days or weeks to develop, then get quickly get out of control. They include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Swelling
  • Weight gain

“CardioMEMS gives me peace of mind and certainly saves on doctor visits,” Shurtleff said. “She knows if I am retaining too much fluid before I see any changes in my weight, and then calls to tell me what I need to do.”

Shurtleff is the first UCI Health CardioMEMS patient. In February 2015, Dr. Pravnav Patel, UCI Health Division of Cardiology chief, implanted the sensor in Shurtleff’s pulmonary artery during a right heart catheterization procedure. The sensor monitors his pulmonary artery pressure around the clock.

Remote monitor enables proactive treatment

Lying on a special pillow that acts as an antenna, Shurtleff’s daily pressure readings are sent wirelessly to a secure website where Lombardo can monitor the data from her office and identify early warning signs before problems develop.

“CardioMEMS helps John enjoy a better quality of life,” Lombardo said. “I can detect changes before he notices any symptoms and manage his condition before it deteriorates.”

In recent clinical trials, CardioMEMS reduced hospital readmission rates by up to 37 percent.

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