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An Innovative Way of Monitoring Heart Failure

Heart failure is a serious condition that’s somewhat common in the United States.  In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 5.7 million American adults have heart failure, and one in nine deaths include heart failure as a contributing factor.             

The rise in heart failure diagnoses has coincided with the obesity epidemic.  The two most significant causes of obesity—eating an unhealthy diet and not getting enough physical activity—are risk factors for heart failure.  Other risk factors include:

  • Having high blood pressure
  • Having coronary heart disease or heart attacks
  • Having diabetes
  • Smoking

Those with heart failure typically develop a variety of symptoms that worsen as the condition progresses.

“Heart failure is a condition where the heart can’t meet the demands of the body,” says Brenda Hott, MD, FACC, medical director of the Heart Failure Program at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.  “Patients experience symptoms that may include shortness of breath, an inability to lie flat, waking up at night with shortness of breath, swelling of the lower extremities, increasing abdominal girth, exercise intolerance and fatigue.”

How Heart Failure Is Treated

Because heart failure is typically caused by damage to the heart that has occurred over time, it can’t be cured.  But there are treatment options that can help improve symptoms and quality of life.

Once a patient is diagnosed with heart failure, his or her physician will determine a treatment plan that may include lifestyle changes, medications, surgical procedures, implanted devices and regular, ongoing checkups.

Regardless of the type of treatment they receive, those with heart failure require careful monitoring.  Patients and caregivers must keep careful track of new or suddenly worsening symptoms, including rapid weight gain, increased swelling in the lower extremities or increased fatigue. 

Weight gain is a particularly key symptom, which can indicate that the body is starting to retain more fluid.  Because of this, heart failure patients are typically told to weigh themselves every day.

A More Precise Way of Monitoring

While careful self-monitoring and reporting are critical to managing heart failure, a new advancement may revolutionize the way patients are monitored in the future.

“CardioMEMS is a sensor placed in the pulmonary artery,” Dr.  Hott says.  “The sensor measures pressures in the artery.  These pressures change before weight changes are seen in patients, and they can be an early indicator that a patient is having an exacerbation of heart failure.

“This early detection allows for early intervention, which often helps patients avoid worsening symptoms and hospitalization.”

A patient with a CardioMEMS implant takes daily readings from home using a Patient Electronics System.  Information from those readings is transmitted directly to the patient’s physician.  Using that information, the physician can make any necessary adjustments to the patient’s treatment regimen, including medication dosages.

Who’s a Candidate?

CardioMEMS is appropriate for patients whose physical activity is limited due to their heart failure condition and who have been hospitalized for heart failure in the past year. 

Patients with less severe or more severe heart failure aren’t considered candidates for CardioMEMS implantation.  In addition, those with certain medical conditions, clotting disorders, an inability to take anticoagulants such as aspirin, or an inability to tolerate heart catheterization also aren’t appropriate candidates.

Those who do receive CardioMEMS sensors benefit significantly—an innovation others will hopefully benefit from in the future.

“In patients with heart failure, hospitalizations and exacerbations of their condition are linked to increased mortality,” Dr.  Hott says.  “The more hospitalizations, the worse the patient is going to do.  The early detection and intervention possible with CardioMEMS can improve outcomes.”

We’re committed to advancing medical care. Northeast Georgia Medical Center was one of the research study centers involved in the evaluation of the CardioMEMs device leading to FDA approval.

For more information or to obtain a referral for the Heart Failure Program at NGMC, schedule an appointment with a cardiologist at The Heart Center of NGMC by calling 770-534-2020 or visiting

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