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Published on January 09, 2017

Improving the Quality of Life for Heart Failure Patients

If you or a loved one are dealing with heart failure (HF), you know how difficult it can be to manage the condition. It requires constant monitoring of symptoms to ensure you identify a potential problem before it becomes worse. Even with the most vigilant care and monitoring, however, hospitalizations are a fact of life for HF patients. In fact, every year more than one million people are admitted to hospitals for heart failure – the most common reason for hospitalizations among those 65 and older.

The threat of frequent hospitalizations has a significant impact on the quality of life and well-being of heart failure patients. Now, an innovative treatment called the CardioMEMS HF System is bringing new hope to heart failure patients.

What Exactly is Heart Failure?

The term “heart failure” may sound like the heart is not working at all anymore. However, in reality, it means that the heart is not pumping enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Cells throughout the body require oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to function properly. Without it, symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue and coughing can occur. Everyday activities such as walking, grocery shopping or climbing stairs become very difficult.

To compensate, the heart enlarges and gains muscle mass in order to contract more efficiently. Depending on the cause of this dysfunction, your heart may become weak and/or stiff, leading to debilitating symptoms. Various treatment options are available, but if these strategies don’t persist, then eventually the patient’s symptoms worsen.

How CardioMEMS Can Help

Monitoring heart failure symptoms is difficult for patients, which is why hospitalizations are so common. It requires that they keep track of changes such as coughing, shortness of breath, weight changes and swelling, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping.

The CardioMEMS HF System helps by monitoring changes in blood pressure before any related symptoms become noticeable to the patient. The monitoring is done through your pulmonary artery. This allows doctors to adjust the patient’s treatment plan to avoid complications and hospitalizations. The majority of these changes are to prescribed medications, specifically diuretics and blood pressure medication.

“For patients, the CardioMEMS HF System is very simple to use,” said Robert A. Watson III, MD, chief, Cardiology and co-director, Comprehensive Heart Failure Program at Abington-Jefferson Health. “They lie on a special pillow at home, push a button, and their daily sensor readings are sent to their doctor through a secure online portal.” These pressure readings are monitored daily to weekly by trained staff members.CardioMEMS HF SensorThe implantation procedure is fairly simple as well. After administering a mild sedative to the patient, the doctor implants the CardioMEMS device—which is about the size of a paperclip—through the femoral vein. It’s permanent, doesn’t require batteries and is designed to last a lifetime. Patients are required to be on Plavix for at least a month and take aspirin indefinitely.

After the procedure, most patients experience improvement in their quality of life since the CardioMEMs HF System provides more precise tracking of their condition.

“The data from a CardioMEMS clinical trial is very promising, showing a 37 percent reduction in hospitalizations due to heart failure,” said Dr. Watson. “We’re excited to offer this innovative technology as part of our comprehensive approach to treating heart failure patients here at Abington-Jefferson Health.”

Call 215-481-MEDI for more information or to schedule a visit with a cardiologist at Abington Hospital – Jefferson Health. To refer a patient for evaluation, contact Maureen Hummel, CRNP, Comprehensive Heart Failure Program, 215-481-4100.

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