Reduced hospitalizations is a major benefit
Walter Williams, now 80, and his wife, Jeannette, rest a little easier these days, thanks to a unique, implantable, remote monitoring device that helps manage Walter’s heart failure.
But it was a bumpy road for a while.
Walter was first diagnosed with heart failure in 1991, a condition whereby the heart muscle is damaged and cannot effectively pump blood throughout the body. This can lead to frequent and life-threatening fluid buildup in the lungs and surrounding body tissues as well as kidney failure.
The husband and wife team were vigilant about watching Walter’s diet and fluid intake, but by 2016, Walter’s condition had worsened. The Gaithersburg, MD, resident was nearing monthly visits to Inova Fairfax Medical Campus (IFMC) for emergency care, and with each hospitalization, his kidneys grew weaker, which made dialysis a looming possibility. “Every day was so stressful,” Jeannette recalls. “We were always adjusting Walter’s medication but never sure what, if anything, was working.”
A New Approach
That’s when Walter’s doctor, Shashank Desai, MD, Medical Director of the Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Program at IFMC, suggested the CardioMEMS™ HF System, a new and highly regarded implantable, battery-free sensor that essentially predicts fluid buildup in the lungs. Inova is believed to be the first hospital in the Washington, DC, area to implant this tiny, state-of-the-art monitoring sensor into a patient diagnosed with heart failure.
One compelling reason to use the device? The chance to reduce hospital readmissions.
“We know that hospitalization is a significant marker for heart failure severity. But more doctors, nurses and drugs weren’t bending the curve on hospital readmissions. Neither were daily weigh-ins and strict diets with limited salt intake,” notes Dr. Desai. “Then we found the CardioMEMS system. This was highly personalized, precision healthcare, which is always Inova’s goal. So we were very early proponents.”
Did Inova’s hunch pan out? The evidence points to yes. Since Walter had the device implanted, his ER visits have dropped to only once in the past 14 months. “My quality of life is much better now — more normal,” he says.
Adds Jeanette, “The stress level has been significantly reduced. We are so thankful to have Dr. Desai and his team.”
Walter isn’t the only patient benefiting from the CardioMEMS system. A 2014 clinical trial found that 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
Staying Ahead of the Curve
For Walter, the path to better health began with Dr. Desai implanting the monitoring sensor — about the size of a paper clip — into the patient’s pulmonary artery (the vessel that carries blood from the heart to the lungs).
The minimally invasive, outpatient procedure took about 30 minutes. After a brief recovery period, the patient was discharged and at home.
Now, every day, Walter lies on a pillow and presses a button on a small home monitoring electronics unit. The system then measures the pressure inside Walter’s artery, which forecasts fluid buildup in his lungs, and automatically sends this data to a monitoring station that is closely tracked by Amanda Millheim, RN, Heart Failure Nurse Specialist.
If Walter’s pressure is higher than it should be, it’s a sign that fluid might be backing up into his lungs. That’s when Millheim alerts Dr. Desai, who can immediately adjust Walter’s medications.
Because the CardioMEMS system senses increasing pressure up to two weeks before trauma strikes, it’s a proactive system rather than a reactive system, giving doctors and nurses time to stay ahead of the curve and hopefully prevent hospitalization, or worse.
What sets Inova’s system apart is the tight bond between Millheim and her Inova patients being remotely monitored. “Amanda is like a mother hen watching over our heart failure patients,” Dr. Desai says. “They know she’s tracking their data, preparing their weekly reports and ready to answer any question at any time.”
“The CardioMEMS system is a tool that allows us to create a highly personalized approach to heart failure care,” he adds. “It’s a system that’s brought some amazing results for so many of our patients.”
The Heart of It
Learn more about the groundbreaking CardioMEMS HF System and other treatments for heart failure.