CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - There is exciting news for patients with heart failure, who often live one day at a time, nervous about how long their heart will hold up.
A miniature sensor, smaller than a AA battery, is drastically improving the quality of life of those patients, warning them weeks ahead of a potentially fatal episode, and keeping them out of the hospital.
Marilyn Buckholz has been living with heart failure since 1988 after she suffered a massive heart attack.
She managed but wasn’t thriving, experimenting with medications to ward off hospitalization but always nervous about being alone.
“I travel quite a bit to go see my family and traveling was always frightening,” she said.
Then her doctors at University Hospital’s Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute introduced her to this tiny innovation that drastically changed her life.
The CardioMEMS is a wireless sensor implanted in patients’ pulmonary artery through a minimally invasive procedure.
The device is made by Abbott.
Data from that sensor is transmitted wirelessly every day when patients lie down on a pillow paired with their device.
The CardioMEMS team at University Hospitals examines the numbers every couple of days to identify trends, not spikes.
Lung pressure is a leading indicator that trouble is ahead.
“Fortunately for us, we’ve leveraged the fact that lung pressures actually start to go up two to three weeks before volume accumulates to the point where it is clinically significant,” said Dr. Monique Robinson, with University Hospitals.
A nurse practitioner then reaches out to the patient to address medication dosages or diet to get ahead of a heart failure episode.
Dr. Robinson says it helps patients understand triggers and self-manage their heart failure.
“Literally a window into the heart. Like taking a heart monitor with you every day,” said Dr. Robinson.
The hospital system is now managing more than 120 patients with this device, who’ve experienced a 70% reduction in hospital readmission.
This is important because heart failure patients who are readmitted to the hospital have a higher mortality rate, and poorer quality of life.
“What we’re trying to offer people is vibrant heart failure existence, as it were,” said Dr. Robinson.
She says with the CardioMEMS quality of life is significantly boosted, and there’s potential for increased longevity.
For Buckholz, it’s been a game changer.
She’s had the CardioMEMS device in for five years and hasn’t been admitted to the hospital for her heart failure since.
She now lives life with more freedom and confidence, a security she hadn’t felt in decades.
“I don’t worry so much about exercising, about traveling or being alone on the road,” Marylin said.
University Hospitals was an early-adopter of the CardioMEMS program and now serves as a national training site for other care givers. Most heart failure patients are eligible candidates for the device.