• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Implanted heart monitor allows self-checking

April 11, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Heart disease kills more people than any other disease in the U.S. But a new type of technology could help turn those numbers around. An implantable heart monitor helps patients take control of their health. This new technology gives doctors an "inside" look into a patient's heart and how well they are doing. And it could help millions of heart patients live better, more productive lives.

Rodney Clarke already has a pacemaker, defibrillator and an aortic valve implant. Now he's one of the first heart-disease patients to get a new implanted monitor.

"It's given me the availability of being able to have some of the quality of my life back," said Clarke.

"It's actually one of the latest technology advances that allows us to move to what we call 'personalized medicine,'" said Dr. Spencer Rosero, director of the Pacemaker Clinic, University of Rochester.

Rosero is one of the leading researchers on the device. It's implanted in the chest and a wire is connected to the heart to continually monitor heart pressure. Patients collect readings by waving a hand-held device over their chest. The information helps them figure out when and how much medication to take.

"If you have the information there every day then you can adjust the medications every day," said Rosero. "But if you're only getting information once a month, you can only adjust the medications once a month."

The constant monitoring helps better control heart disease.

"The goal is to keep patients out of the hospital and modify the medications so they only take the medicine when they really need it," said Rosero.

Keeping close tabs on his heart has helped Rodney Clarke avoid a transplant. Now he's spending more time at home instead of in a hospital room.

Dr. Rosero says the monitor allows patients to take a proactive role in their own care, much like the way people with diabetes test their own blood-sugar levels.

Hundreds of people are needed for Phase 3 trials across the U.S.

BACKGROUND: Heart disease kills more people than any other disease in America. It can be defined as the narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. It is caused by the buildup of plaque in the arteries to the heart. There are certain risk factors that are out of our hands. They include age, gender, genes and race.

HAVE A HEART: The heart pumps 5.6 liters of blood through the entire body in roughly 20 seconds. Each day your blood travels some 12,000 miles, and your heart beats about 100,000 times. This delivers oxygen and other essential nutrients to the body's cells and organs. A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to the heart muscle is cut off, either because part of the heart is damaged (such as the valves to the chambers), or because plaque has built up inside the arteries, narrowing them and severely restricting blood flow.

SYMPTOMS: Usually symptoms are very noticeable and sometimes you can have the disease and not know it. The most common symptom is chest pain, usually felt when the heart does not receive enough oxygen or blood. Other symptoms include shortness of breath and fatigue with activity. There already have been medical advances that have significantly changed the impact of heart disease on the population, such as, pacemakers, defibrillators, and aortic valve implants. Now researchers are studying a new implanted monitor. They believe the best way to treat a disease is to learn every possible detail about what is happening to the patient.

INSERTABLE CARDIAC MONITOR: An Insertable Cardiac Monitor is a small implantable device that continuously monitors heart rhythms and records them automatically or when you use a hand-held patient activator. The device is implanted just beneath the skin in the upper chest area. Then a wire is connected to the heart to continually monitor heart pressure. The readings are collected and then sent to a hand-held device. The monitor will allow patients to take a proactive role in their own care.

"The device itself will process the information which includes, a prescription (programmed by their doctor) already built into the device that tells them, for example, take your water pill a little earlier today, take an extra dose today, don't take it today," Dr. Spencer Rosero, the lead author of the study explained. "It is so far the only one that actually integrates this kind of personalized hand held-device with the patients and real time managements in medications and prescriptions. It's the first fully integrated system to empower the patient in heart failure."


Load Comments