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Tiny sensor could help save lives, reduce costs for a growing number of Americans with heart failure

Oct 16, 2017

Photo of David BarnardPHOENIX (Oct. 16, 2017) – David Barnard was just standing in line at a restaurant when he suddenly crumbled to the ground.

“Bingo. It hit me,’’ he said, thinking back to the heart attack he suffered in 1993 at the age of 50. He underwent a triple bypass for that attack and then a double bypass for a second heart attack in 2006.

Now 74, Barnard is counting on a new piece of technology to monitor for early signs and symptoms of heart failure. He recently had a small device the size of a paper clip implanted into his pulmonary artery at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital.

The CardioMEMS™ HF System measures pressure in the heart and can remotely alert doctors of possible problems – even weeks before a patient shows any outward signs of heart failure. When an alert goes out, providers can adjust a patient’s medication or treatment plan and potentially avoid another hospitalization for heart failure. 

Heart failure is the result of persistent high blood pressure, a heart attack or other forms of heart, cardiovascular disease or birth defects.

Approximately 6 million Americans are living with heart failure, and that number is growing. In the United States, the number of deaths from this condition has more than doubled since 1979, averaging 250,000 annually, according to the Heart Failure Society of America.

The CardioMEMS technology is overseen by the Institute for Congestive Heart Failure at the Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital. The procedure, which involves having a small electronic device inserted into the pulmonary artery, requires only an outpatient visit. With no batteries or connecting wires, insertion is minimally invasive. After being implanted, the sensor on the device can detect small changes in pressures (which can indicate worsening heart failure) and sends them electronically to a cardiologist or electrophysiologist.

Patients receive an at-home monitor. Once a day, they will use it to take pressure readings of their artery. The information is wirelessly sent to their healthcare provider. It’s painless, and simple.

Barnard recently had the procedure and said the technology is helping give him peace of mind that doctors will be able to provide the best options for treatment. “I want to just keep going. I want to try everything I can do,’’ he said. “It helps me, it helps the world and that’s all I really care about.”

Like Barnard, Patricia Parker is living her life without worrying about return trips to the hospital because of her heart failure. Parker logged plenty of hospital time to treat her heart disease, which she’s been living with for most of her 74 years. In 2016, she spent three consecutive months in the hospital, due to her illness.

Now, Parker sees a brighter future. “And, certainly, my heart right now is not something I need to worry about, my doctors are taking care of that.”

CardioMEMS was approved by the FDA in 2014. Proof of the technology’s success is drawn from its national clinical trial, in which patients noted 38 percent fewer hospital stays in the first year after having the device implanted.

For more information, contact Patrick Smith, Heart Failure Nurse Navigator at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital, at 602-532-2062 or Patrick4.Smith@abrazohealth.com.

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