Heart failure is a serious health issue for a lot of Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 6.2 million U.S. adults have heart failure. To get their symptoms under control, people with heart failure often end up in the hospital.
“Every time a person is re-hospitalized for heart failure, they never seem to quite get back to their previous baseline as far as energy level, activity, and general wellbeing go,” said Travis Polk, a Banner Health nurse practitioner in Northern Colorado. Of course, the best way to avoid these issues is to avoid the need for hospitalization in the first place.
Helping people stay healthy at home
There’s a big push to keep heart failure patients out of the hospital. Cardiology programs have added heart failure clinics so healthcare professionals can keep a closer eye on heart failure patients and spot problems before they need hospital-level care.
“These clinics have been wildly successful,” Polk said. They monitor heart failure warning signs like weight gain, fluid buildup in the lungs and shortness of breath. But worsening conditions of heart failure need to be corrected quickly. Otherwise, patients can end up in the hospital within seven days.
“There is a lot of research focused on heart failure because it affects so many people. New treatment methods and monitoring devices have changed the game and patients are living longer, with a better quality of life,” Polk said.
With new monitoring devices, healthcare providers can spot signs of trouble much sooner. One monitoring device, CardioMEMS, can identify warning signs weeks before you notice any symptoms.
Here’s how CardioMEMS works
Using a non-surgical procedure, a small sensor is implanted in your pulmonary artery which measures changes in your artery’s pressure. Those changes are early signs that fluid is building up in your body.
Every day, you take a reading from the sensor. You simply lie on a special pillow that can pick up readings from the sensor, press a button, and wait several seconds.
Your reading is sent wirelessly to your health care providers. If your heart failure is getting worse, your provider can adjust your medication or change your treatment plan over the phone.
“The beauty of a CardioMEMS device is that I can see the pressures inside your body rising several weeks before you even have symptoms,” Polk said. “This way we can ensure you are only taking the exact amount of medication you need.”
You can also use the CardioMEMS app to get reminders from your health care provider and set reminders to take your medication and your reading.
While some pacemakers can estimate fluid status, they aren’t as accurate as CardioMEMS.
The procedure is simple
Polk says the sensors are implanted in an outpatient procedure that takes about 15 minutes. With prep before the procedure and monitoring afterward, most people are in the hospital for about half a day.
Are you a candidate for CardioMEMS?
The sensor system is recommended for certain heart failure patients. “Like most things in medicine, it’s not for everybody,” Polk said. “There are specific criteria that we review with each patient to see if this device is a good fit for you and your situation.” Schedule an appointment with your health care provider to find out more.