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A Forecast for Heart Failure Symptoms

Published: 02/23/2017

Dr. Sauer reviews the data from a patient's CardioMEMs with him
Above, during a checkup last summer, Charlie Chatman reviewed his CardioMEMS pulmonary artery pressure data with cardiologist Andrew Sauer, MD.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A small butterfly-shaped device is making life radically better for patients with heart failure.

Called the CardioMEMS HF System, the wireless sensor doesn't treat heart failure, but it does monitor the patient's pulmonary artery pressure and heart rate. It then transmits reports to the patient's care team, allowing them to adjust medications as needed and monitor heart function remotely.

"It's like a pressure gauge," explained cardiologist Andrew Sauer, MD, director of The University of Kansas Health System's Heart Failure Program. "You can essentially forecast when someone's about to have symptoms of heart failure by watching the trends."

Frequent trips to the emergency room and hospitalization are common for people with heart failure, a chronic disease in which the heart doesn't pump enough blood to organs. Physicians typically use medications, such as diuretics, to remove fluids that build up behind the heart.

With the new device, which received FDA approval in May 2014, the patient's dedicated care team – nurse practitioners, physician assistants and heart failure nurses – can monitor heart function on a regular basis and adjust medications as needed, meaning fewer trips to the emergency department or diuretic infusion centers.

The CardioMEMS HF System is about the size of a paperclip and inserted through a minimally invasive procedure
The CardioMEMS HF System is about the size of a paperclip.

The University of Kansas Health System has implanted 29 CardioMEMS total since the first case in October 2015, providing a significant history for the device's success.

"We've been able to see the technology is very safe," Sauer said. "Generally, if you're checking it twice a week, you can prevent hospitalizations of heart failure."

Charlie Chatman, The University of Kansas Health System's first CardioMEMS patient, was an ideal candidate. At 66, the Poplar Bluff, Missouri, man was struggling with four separate heart conditions, causing him to be hospitalized three or four times a year.

But after receiving the paperclip-sized device through a minimally invasive procedure 16 months ago, he hasn't been hospitalized since for heart failure. Said Sauer: "This is a game changer for him."

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