By Lynne Choate
Living with advanced heart failure can be every bit as scary as it sounds. For patients, it means following a strict regimen that includes medication and regularly monitoring for the slightest signs that the condition is getting worse.
Heart failure patients need to check their weight daily and report even slight changes to their health care providers. Fluid intake must be regulated carefully. Even when patients follow strict guidelines, symptoms of worsening heart failure may show up only after the damage has been done.
Shortness of breath, feeling tired, weakness in the legs, swelling in the abdomen and lower appendages — all are signs that a heart failure patient needs to contact their doctor or, even worse, get to an emergency room right away, according to Kelly C. McCants, M.D., medical director of the Norton Heart &Vascular Institute Advanced Heart Failure Program.
“The problem is, the symptoms mean that possible damage could have already impacted the heart muscle,” Dr. McCants said.
Heart Failure Monitoring That Provides an Early Warning
Advanced heart failure monitoring technology at Norton Heart & Vascular Institute is providing new insight into subtle changes that could signal worsening heart failure.
Implanted in the pulmonary artery with no batteries or electrical leads, the CardioMEMS device uses the natural phenomena of resonant frequency to detect changes in blood flow before symptoms become a problem.
Once a day (or as often as the provider directs), the patient will lie on a pillow at home that contains another device that reads the resonant frequency from the CardioMEMS device. Pressure changes in the pulmonary artery will affect the reading.
The data is transmitted securely to Dr. McCants or other providers at Norton Heart & Vascular Institute who can manage medications or provide direction on how to lower or maintain pressure.
“This technology is saving patients’ lives,” Dr. McCants said. “Being able to know a patient’s fluid level before they start to exhibit and feel symptoms is impacting their overall health. Each patient has a target number, and if they are above that number, we can react with instructions.”
The more Dr. McCants and the Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Advanced Heart Failure Program team can prevent a patient’s condition from requiring an emergency trip to the hospital, the better.
“Research shows that each hospitalization for heart failure, someone’s chance for survival decreases by as much as 30%,” Dr. McCants said.
The CardioMEMS heart failure monitoring implant is placed inside the pulmonary artery during a minimally invasive procedure. After what is usually an overnight stay, the patient goes home and usually can return to normal activity within a few days.
Dr. McCants reminds his patients that the device only works in conjunction with lifestyle modifications and continued communication with their provider.
Refer a Patient to the Advanced Heart Failure Program
We care for patients in all stages of congestive heart failure. Our specialties include caring for those in need of medication for mild heart failure to severe cases requiring mechanical circulator support management, such as left ventricular assist devices, and patients awaiting a new heart. Our team works with you to create a care plan that works best for each patient.
Refer a patient online and select “Heart Failure” from the specialty drop down menu.