Heart pillow device could keep patients out of hospital

Clinical trial for heart failure patients includes Memorial Hospital, OPMC

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A new device that could keep the most critical heart patients out of the hospital is currently being tested in a clinical trial that includes Memorial Hospital and Orange Park Medical Center.

But doctors say it's already allowing them to give personalized care to heart failure patients before a problem comes up.

Mike and Shelia Smith have been married for 41 years. They have two daughters, grandchildren and a beautiful life that Mike said he doesn't want to waste in a hospital. 

He said the worst part about hospital stays is the food.

“I don't eat it. It's terrible. No taste,” Mike said.

So Mike's goal is to stay out of the hospital, but that's hard to do with congestive heart failure. 

Mike had a series of heart attacks in 1999, and he's been in and out of the hospital ever since. But in August of this year, Mike's family had a major scare that led to his congestive heart failure diagnosis.

“He was stumbling around. He was shaking. He had slurred speech. He just wasn't right, and it was time to go to the emergency room,” Shelia said.

Mike's diagnosis means a lifetime of pills and monitoring to make sure he doesn't have a heart emergency.

“I take about 12 medicines a day -- some in the morning, some in the evening, some both,” Mike said.

Cardiologist Dr. Sumant Lamba, at Memorial Hospital, has been testing a new device that keeps a constant eye on heart failure patients.

“You have a window period, an opportunity to intervene on patients before they develop symptoms -- and that's the whole idea,” Lamba said.

Mike is in the clinical trial, which is trying to see if the CardioMEMS HF System keeps patients out of the hospital and alive longer. 

Mike has a dime-sized sensor implanted in his pulmonary artery, the blood vessel that moves blood from the heart to the lungs. It communicates with another device he keeps at home.  

In the morning, Mike lays down on a pillow that takes daily pressure readings and wirelessly transmits the data to the doctor for continuous monitoring. 

“I could be anywhere in the world, and I literally manage these patients on my trips in Europe,” Lamba said. “Patients can be anywhere in the world, all they have to do is lay on this pillow and press a button, and it transmits me the pressures.”

Lamba has already changed Mike's medications based on his readings. 

“It's great,” Mike said. “One example is he had us go get this one medicine and told us to take it just that day and only when he calls.”

Lamba said the readings allow patients to be monitored daily by their doctors, even while they're at home.

“We look at these pressures every day, and we make necessary changes with either a water pill or blood pressure medications called vasodilators to affect those changes and bring down those pressures,” Lamba said.

Those decisions could keep Mike at home with Shelia and out of the hospital. 

“It makes me feel really good to know that somebody is watching him every single day,” Shelia said. “That someone is getting those transmissions, they're seeing what his pressures are and then they can adjust as needed.”

The device reduced hospitalizations for congestive heart failure by 50-70 percent based on data from thousands of patients.

People with advanced heart failure who are interested in learning more about the CardioMEMS research study can call 904-702-6530.

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