Robert Cole, MD, shares how the CardioMEMS™ device is improving the lives of those living with congestive heart failure

The CardioMEMS
The CardioMEMS™ HF System sensor is about the size of a large paper clip and transmits data on the pressure within the pulmonary artery to a remote sensing device.

Using the state-of-the-art CardioMEMS™ device, Inova’s advanced heart failure specialists can monitor their patients’ conditions remotely, promptly identifying when medical intervention is needed to help avoid repeated and costly admissions to the hospital.

Congestive heart failure is a condition that occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the demands of the body. An overworked heart may become enlarged due to a variety of factors, damaging the tissue over time. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 5 million adults in the United States are living with congestive heart failure. Common causes of congestive heart failure include coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, heart valve disease, thyroid disease, kidney disease, diabetes or heart defects present at birth.

The CardioMEMS device, in use at Inova since 2016, is a sensor about the size of a paperclip. It is implanted permanently into the pulmonary artery (the vessel that carries blood from the heart to the lungs) during a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure. Once inserted, it measures pressure inside the artery.

Robert Cole, MD, an advanced heart failure and transplant cardiologist who specializes in the management of patients with congestive heart failure at Inova Fairfax, explains the impact of the CardioMEMS. He discusses its success, and how the device can reduce hospitalization before a patient experiences life-threatening symptoms.

How do doctors decide to advise a patient to consider CardioMEMS?

Dr. Cole: Congestive heart failure is a disease of significant symptoms and often results in numerous hospitalizations. Any congestive heart failure patient who has been admitted to the hospital in the preceding year should discuss with their physician whether a CardioMEMS is a good option. The device helps to keep patients clinically stable and out of the hospital. The goal is to keep a closer eye on our patients from afar, which allows us to intervene before they get into trouble and need to go to the hospital.

Patients who have significant symptoms are typically short of breath and fatigued with usual activity — like daily chores around the house, such as doing dishes, cleaning, making a meal or even something as simple as getting dressed in the morning — could be eligible for this implant.

Once a patient has received the implant, what do they need to do?

Dr. Cole: After we implant the device, we recommend that patients send in their “numbers” daily so that we can keep a close eye on them. To do 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 in the pulmonary arteries (the blood vessels that feed the lungs) and sends the results to our office. We know that when the pressures inside of the heart start to go up, that’s the first sign that patients might be starting to get into trouble with congestive heart failure. That’s also the time we can intervene — before they start to develop symptoms like shortness of breath or swelling in their legs.

What has been the success rate of the monitoring device?

Dr. Cole: In the clinical trials for CardioMEMS, the findings demonstrated a nearly 40 percent reduction in the risk of having to be hospitalized for congestive heart failure and an almost 80 percent reduction in hospital readmissions within 30 days. The real-world use of it, and our use of it at Inova, is better than that 40 percent in terms of reducing hospitalizations for congestive heart failure. It’s one of the few things where the real-world experience is actually better than clinical trials, which really emphasizes how well the device works. 

The impact of the CardioMEMS device has been positive on patients’ health and quality of life. By reducing the risk of re-hospitalization, this device could not only improve and extend the lives of cardiovascular patients but also cut healthcare costs, too.

And while this device isn’t meant for every cardiovascular patient, it has proven to be an exciting option for thousands of congestive heart failure patients.


If you or a loved one have recently been hospitalized for congestive heart failure, learn more about remote monitoring options available at Inova Heart and Vascular Institute. or call 703-776-7697. 

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