Long Beach Memorial to implant world's first device to manage the heart's fluid accumulation

26 January 2005

Long Beach Memorial Medical Center will implant the world's first cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) defibrillator system to offer automatic fluid status monitoring in the thoracic cavity, the chest area encompassing the lungs and heart, in a 74-year-old Carson man on Thursday, Jan. 27.

The new implantable therapy is expected to provide a critical advantage in managing heart failure, since thoracic fluid accumulation is a primary indicator of worsening heart failure and often results in patient hospitalization.

"It's an ideal therapy option for the 400,000 Americans with heart failure who have dysynchronous beating in the heart's lower chambers and low blood output that places them at risk for sudden cardiac arrest," says Serge Tobias, MD, cardiologist at Memorial Heart and Vascular Institute at Long Beach Memorial. "Long Beach Memorial is always at the forefront of research for cardiac resynchronization therapy and now, in addition to providing important therapies to treat heart failure and fast heart rhythms, this is the first time we'll have early notification about fluid accumulation in the lungs, which will serve as an immediate warning sign allowing us to adjust treatment accordingly and hopefully keep patients out of the hospital."

Recently approved by the FDA, its breakthrough feature is the ability to measure thoracic fluid. Using low electrical pulses traveling across the chest cavity, the system measures the level of resistance to electrical pulses that indicate thoracic fluid level in the thorax. Since fluid levels vary and fluid accumulation is slow or rapid, the ability to measure fluid status over time provides important insights in conjunction with ongoing monitoring of other patient symptoms.

Once implanted, this new defibrillator system will provide vital patient information to physicians who manage the ongoing care of heart failure patients. In the future, physicians will be able to access data gathered by the system using the Internet and through wireless transmissions that won't require direct patient interaction.

CRT resynchronizes the contractions of the heart's lower chambers by sending tiny electrical impulses to the heart muscle, which can help the heart pump blood throughout the body more efficiently and reduce heart failure symptoms. The system's defibrillation capability delivers greater or larger electrical pulses to treat a potentially lethal heart rhythm, which is important for heart failure patients who may require more energy to terminate life-threatening arrhythmias. According to the American Heart Association, patients with heart failure are six to nine times more likely to suffer an episode of sudden cardiac arrest than the general population.

Heart failure afflicts 5 million Americans and is the number one cause of hospital admissions, with most admissions due to fluid accumulation in the thorax. This fluid buildup often goes undetected until the patient is critically ill. It is not unusual for patients to require hospitalization or urgent treatment at an emergency room for severe respiratory distress. With about 1 million hospitalizations each year for heart failure at a cost of an estimated $40 billion annually, improving heart failure management not only saves lives, but reduces costs.

Source: Long Beach Memorial Medical Center



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