When Richard Howard had his first heart attack in 1998, he didn’t imagine that almost 20 years later he’d have a device implanted in his heart that could wirelessly monitor it every day. But that’s exactly what happened.
Despite what the name suggests, a heart failure diagnosis does not mean that a person’s heart can no longer function. Instead, as the American Heart Association states, heart failure describes a heart that cannot keep up with its workload.
With heart failure, a weakened heart muscle can’t pump enough blood to supply the body with the oxygen it needs. This leads to symptoms like fatigue and shortness of breath. Everyday activities as simple as climbing stairs can become challenging for a someone with heart failure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 5.7 million adults in the U.S. have heart failure.
A new tool in heart care
After two heart attacks, multiple stents and a heart failure diagnosis, Howard’s Sanford Health cardiologist, Orvar Jonsson, M.D., started talking to him about the CardioMEMS HF system. Sanford Health is one of the first to offer the CardioMEMS HF technology, a game changer monitoring system in heart failure treatment.
Because of outreach care, Howard receives treatment near his home in Madison, South Dakota, as well as in nearby Sioux Falls. He was one of the first patients in the region to benefit from this new technology.
“Now they’re able to monitor my heart and keep track of it, so I don’t have to wonder what’s going on,” he said.
Implanted onto the heart’s pulmonary artery, the tiny device, which is no bigger than a dime, delivers daily information to Howard’s care team, allowing them to monitor his condition outside of the clinic or hospital setting.
Readings from the sensor in his heart are gathered by a bedside electronics unit that also wirelessly powers the implant. The sensor measures Howard’s heart rate and blood pressures.
“It makes me feel better, knowing they’re getting the information every day,” Howard said. “The readings have been good on it so far.”
Minimizing the unknown
Having a CardioMEMS HF system implanted helps alleviate much of the uncertainty that can worry heart failure patients and their families.
Patients often experience fewer hospital stays once a CardioMEMS HF device helps their care team hone in on the nuances of their condition. The proactive monitoring allows Dr. Jonsson to make quicker adjustments to Howard’s medications and treatments, while also watching closely for any signals that indicate worsening heart failure.
Howard is thankful that he trusted Dr. Jonsson to manage his heart failure in this new way.
“I haven’t felt better in years,” he said.
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