posted on: 6/19/2017 10:10:33 AM
Health & Fitness Guest Columnist
Pamela Gardner, DO
Medical Director of Lima Memorial’s Heart Failure Clinic
Heart failure is a common condition that results from damage to the heart. This damage makes it difficult for the heart to pump enough blood to the body, causing individuals to feel weak, tired or breathless and may cause congestion, or a build-up of fluid in the lungs. Heart failure is a chronic, progressive disease that gets worse over time and inadequate monitoring of the symptoms is one of the biggest reasons people get readmitted to the hospital.
As a heart failure specialist, I care for so many patients whose hearts are very, very sick with heart failure. One of the items I speak with my patients about is their ejection fraction, or how much blood the heart pumps per minute. For a healthy heart, the typical ejection fraction rate is 50% or more. I, however, will see people whose hearts are pumping at a rate of 10% of the blood to the rest of their body. These patients will exhibit signs of severe shortness of breath and significant swelling to the legs, feet or abdomen. They typically cannot lie down, and they will wake in the middle of the night panting for breath. These individuals require a very thorough evaluation to determine the best treatment option to get the heart to remodel or get stronger.
Many times, an effective treatment option is the use of medications. There are a number of guideline-directed medical therapies that can help make the heart work the way it’s supposed to, making it function efficiently again. It’s so exciting to watch these people get their quality of life back. We spend time perfecting the medication regimen to achieve the best outcomes for each individual patient, and their progress is monitored with routine echocardiograms. We couple this therapy with education about diet, exercise and symptom recognition & management.
Another innovative technology for heart failure management is the CardioMEMSTM Heart Failure System. CardioMEMSTM is a tiny device that is implanted in the pulmonary artery during a right heart catheterization. It directly measures the pressure inside the lung and can reliably and proactively monitor a patient’s condition.
When individuals go into heart failure, they start accumulating fluid. When their fluid level gets too high inside the lung, the body/heart can’t exchange oxygen. This causes patients to be very uncomfortable. Patients feel short of breath and can’t lie down. The unique ability of the CardioMEMSTM system is that it senses the patient’s distress way before they start to be symptomatic, actually three weeks before symptoms would typically present.
Through CardioMEMSTM real-time monitoring, the pressure readings transmit over the phone to a computer system. The physician can evaluate the pressure and adjust the patient’s medications to avoid a heart failure episode. This allows patients to be active participants in their care. Staying in close communication with our patients about the symptoms is vital to achieving better health outcomes for a patient with heart failure and will avoid unnecessary stress and expense associated with a hospital stay. By proactively monitoring the blood pressures, we can get the patient feeling better quickly. Every time a patient has an exacerbation of their symptoms, they lose more heart function, which we need to avoid at all costs.
CardioMEMSTM is a marvelous device to help people stay healthy, feel well and avoid being admitted to the hospital for an exacerbation. That’s huge! I am passionate about figuring out who is appropriate for this real-time monitoring device and making sure these patients have it available to them.
Submitted by Dr. Pamela Gardner, Cardiologist with the Lima Memorial Heart Institute and Medical Director of Lima Memorial Health System’s Congestive Heart Failure Clinic.
Originally published in The Lima News Health and Fitness section.