Paul A. Gurbel, MD, is board certified in interventional cardiology, internal medicine and cardiovascular disease.
At Inova, we have a new tool to help us better provide personalized, precision medicine for heart failure patients. Recently, we became one of the first hospital systems in the U.S. to implant a state-of-the-art monitoring device called CardioMEMS™ into a patient with heart failure.
In late January, I assisted my colleague Shashank Desai, MD, an advanced heart failure and heart transplant specialist at Inova Fairfax Hospital, as he implanted the device into one of my long-time patients. The tiny sensor will allow our team to provide a new level of personalized care for this patient — and, I expect, for many more patients to come.
What Is Heart Failure?
Heart failure is a condition that occurs when the heart can’t pump blood as well as it should. Over time, the heart becomes enlarged, and the tissue becomes damaged.
While we can treat heart failure with medications, it can be a difficult condition to manage. Often, patients have fluid back up into their lungs. That complication frequently sends them to the hospital.
That was the case with my recent patient. He takes his medications, follows weight and diet recommendations and limits his salt intake. But despite doing everything right, he’s been repeatedly hospitalized after developing fluid in his lungs.
That made him the perfect candidate to be the first Inova patient to receive a CardioMEMS™ device.
How Does the CardioMEMS™ Device Work?
The device is a sensor about the size of a paperclip. We insert the device into the pulmonary artery (the vessel that carries blood from the heart to the lungs) during a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure. Once implanted, it measures pressure inside the artery.
Once a day or so, the patient lies down on a pillow and presses a button on a small home monitoring electronics unit. The system then measures the pressure inside the artery and automatically sends the results to my colleagues and me. We can monitor him continuously, and he doesn’t even have to leave home.
If his pressure is higher than it should be, it’s a sign that fluid might be backing up into his lungs. We can immediately adjust his medications — and hopefully prevent serious complications that would lead to a hospital visit, or worse. With this monitor, there’s no guesswork.
CardioMEMS™: Proven Safe and Effective
CardioMEMS™ is the only FDA-approved heart failure monitoring system. A recent clinical trial found the device:
• Reduced hospital admissions for heart failure by 37 percent
• Reduced hospital re-admissions within 30 days by 78 percent
• Was free of complications for 98.6 percent of patients
Hospitalizations are a huge problem for people with heart failure. Among patients with heart failure who are discharged from the hospital, one in four is readmitted within 30 days. About half are back in the hospital within six months.
Frequent hospitalization takes a toll on patients’ health and quality of life. It’s also an expensive burden for our healthcare system. By reducing the risk of re-hospitalization, this device could improve and extend lives and cut costs, too.
This device is not for every patient. But for those whose heart failure isn’t well managed, it’s a really exciting option.
If you want to live a better life with heart failure, you can learn more about our personalized approach to care at the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute.