Implantable heart monitor automatically alerts via satellite

31 August 2005

Maywood Ill., USA. A new FDA-approved defibrillator can automatically send a signal to a doctor via wireless satellite transmission if a patient’s heart beats abnormally or if the device malfunctions. Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) is a major cause of death following heart attacks and studies have shown that mortality is lower in ICD-treated patients. Loyola University Health System in Illinois has become the first hospital in the USA to implant the device into a patient.

Implanted in the chest, the implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a small electronic device that shocks the heart back into a healthy rhythm if it detects an abnormal heartbeat. When a patient’s status changes, a built-in microchip of the ICD (Biotronik’s Lumos DR-T) sends a signal to a satellite via a small transmitter that can be placed on a nightstand, worn on a belt or kept in a purse. In addition, Biotronik’s home monitoring system sends a beat-by-beat record (similar to an electrocardiogram) of any heart rhythm abnormality, which the doctor can then view on a secure website.

The notification signal is automatically generated, even if the patient is unaware of any problems. The doctor can program the device to send an alert for specific reasons, such as a significant increase in the number of irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) episodes, as well as the preferred alert method, i.e., via email, cell phone, fax or page.

“The patient doesn’t have to press any button or call the doctor to activate the system,” said cardiac electrophysiologist Dr. Niraj Varma, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, and Director of the Cardiac Electrophysiology Lab, Loyola University Health System, Maywood, Ill.

“The new ICD provides faster delivery of care to patients and also reduces the number of times a patient has to go to the doctor’s office for follow-up visits,” said Varma, who specializes in treatment of arrhythmias.

“With this surveillance system, physicians for the first time have a way to monitor non-hospitalised heart patients 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week,” he said. “It will enable us to identify problems early on as well as help prevent problems.”

Dr Varma implanted the device into a Loyola patient on Friday, August 26, 2005.

For more information see the Loyola University Health System Web site

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