New miniature, wireless monitor a breakthrough for heart failure patients

People with heart failure are living more active lives, free from frequent doctor visits and avoiding the need for hospitalization thanks to a miniature wireless sensor that Scripps Health doctors are implanting directly into their hearts.

Called the CardioMEMS HF System, it is the first and only FDA-approved heart failure monitoring device that has proved to significantly reduce hospital admissions when used by physicians to manage the potentially fatal condition of heart failure. The system features a dime-sized sensor that is implanted in the pulmonary artery during a non-surgical procedure to directly measure pulmonary artery pressure. Increased artery pressures are often one of the first signs of worsening heart failure.

“This is breakthrough technology that’s keeping heart failure patients out of the hospital, improving their quality of life and allowing doctors to provide even more personalized treatment than before,” said Thomas Heywood, M.D., director of the heart failure program at Scripps Memorial La Jolla and Scripps Green hospitals.

“CardioMEMS allows me to continually monitor patients and detect how they are responding to therapies such as medications and life style changes,” said Dr. Heywood.

Heart failure occurs when pressures inside the heart increase and produce symptoms such as shortness of breath and lower extremity swelling.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 5.1 million people in the United States have heart failure, with 670,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Patients with heart failure frequently are hospitalized, have a reduced quality of life and face a higher risk of death.

According to the American Heart Association, the estimated direct and indirect cost of heart failure in the United States was $31 billion in 2012, and that number is expected to more than double by 2030.

Earlier this year, Dr. Heywood and colleagues at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla became the first in San Diego County to implant the CardioMEMS after it was approved by the FDA.

The sensor is designed to last the lifetime of the patient. It is powered by radio frequency energy that does not require batteries. Once implanted, the wireless device sends pressure readings to an external electronic system. There is no pain or sensation for the patient during the readings, which take a few minutes in the comfort of the patient’s home.

Data from a clinical trial of the device showed that it reduces heart failure hospital admissions by up to 37 percent. Results of the trial demonstrated a significant 28 percent reduction in the rate of heart failure hospitalizations at six months, and 37 percent reduction in heart failure hospitalizations during an average follow-up duration of 15 months.

CardioMEMS is another example of the trend in heart care toward minimally invasive procedures that take advantage of miniaturized and wireless technologies that allow us to monitor our patients remotely, Dr. Heywood said.

For more information, visit scripps.org/KUSI or call 858-240-5075.

Categories: Health