“Heart failure” is a cardiac condition with a misleading name. It does not mean that the patient’s heart has failed; it simply indicates that the heart is not pumping a sufficient volume of blood to the lungs and body. This can result in other problems, such a congestion due to fluid accumulating in the lungs. In most cases, it is a progressive condition and the heart becomes less and less effective at moving blood. As a result, it is important to monitor the patient’s condition. An implantable device from St. Jude Medical now lets doctors monitor patients without requiring a trip to the hospital.
The CardioMEMS HF System is based on a tiny micro-mechanical device that measures the blood pressure in the pulmonary artery of the patient. The tiny device is just about one-eighth of an inch across, less than one-tenth of an inch thick, and a little more than a half-inch long. It is inserted using a minimally invasive catheter process. And the device does not require any batteries; it has an induction coil and a pressure-sensitive capacitor, so the blood pressure in the artery can be read using an external wand held against the patient’s chest. The data is recorded and sent to the doctor for review and monitoring the patient’s condition.
According to a press release by St. Jude Medical, the CardioMEMS HF System is the only FDA-approved heart failure monitoring device proven to significantly reduce hospital admissions. The company’s website cites research that shows a 37% reduction in heart failure hospital admissions, which can represent a significant cost savings.
The current design requires the use of a external device in the patient’s home, but it is easy to see how this system could become modified with a wearable external reader patch that could communicate results wirelessly that would get transmitted back to the doctor. A real-time monitoring system could provide alerts to the patient, caregivers, and healthcare professionals about any significant chance in the patient’s condition. This device has the potential to save lives and improve the quality of life for those living with heart failure.