Between August 2018 and January 2019, Charon Hill-Natle was hospitalized nine times for heart failure. She was constantly on edge, fearing that any change in her body—the inability to breathe; the extreme swelling of her legs—could, with very little notice, signal the onset of heart failure and require another hospitalization.
Homebound and afraid to stray too far from the oxygen tank in her bedroom, Hill-Natle reflected recently on her experience. “Heart failure had taken over my life,” she said.
Just four months after getting a pulmonary artery pressure monitor implanted into her left pulmonary artery, that fear is being replaced by peace of mind. Now nurses at her cardiologist’s office monitor her heart remotely. They review the pressures inside her heart a few times a week or more often when those pressures suggest a change in her health status.
“This device helps my doctor know what my heart is doing,” Hill-Natle, 64, of Millers Falls, said. “Based on the readings from that device, they can get me on the right dose of medication, so I feel better and I don’t go into heart failure.”
Hill-Natle is one of several patients whose heart failure diagnosis has met its match: a paper clip-sized, electronically implanted pulmonary artery pressure monitor that allows cardiologists to customize a patient’s treatment plan and prevent worsening of symptoms or being admitted to the hospital.
“With the cardiac device, we can detect when patients begin to get fluid build-up at a much earlier stage before they require hospitalization,” said Cardiologist James Arcoleo, DO, Medical Director of Advanced Cardiovascular Services.
Procedures are performed in Cooley Dickinson’s recently renovated and expanded Cardiovascular Interventional Radiology (CVIR) suite. Patients who need advanced procedures, such as the cardiac implantable monitoring technology, now have access to these services close to home.
How does cardiac monitoring work?
Using cardiac catheterization, a pressure-sensing device is implanted in a patient’s pulmonary artery. Upon discharge from the hospital, the patient is given a home unit, which resembles a queen-size pillow. To transmit their pulmonary readings, the patient lies on the pillow. The device wirelessly transmits the pulmonary artery readings via a secure website directly to their cardiology team at Hampshire Cardiovascular Associates. “We receive data through a device in their pillow to our computers which allows us to adjust a patient’s medications in advance to prevent hospitalization,” said Arcoleo.
Registered nurses at Hampshire Cardiovascular Associates review the information several times a week, “and more often when the data suggests a change in the patient’s status or if we need to adjust the patient’s medication,” said Rose-Marie Moore, RN. “If the readings suggest that changes need to be made to the patient’s medication or treatment plan, I call the patient to assess their symptoms.”
An Improved Outlook
For Hill-Natle, who has survived four heart attacks, complications from a blood clot and pneumonia, the pulmonary artery pressure monitor has given her newfound freedom and an improved quality of life.
“Before I had no stamina. Now I am beginning to go up and down stairs at home. I can even go outside and walk at a slow pace,” she said recently.
Hill-Natle is quick to point out that she has avoided a hospital stay since January because she hasn’t gone into heart failure. “And that for me is absolutely amazing. This device seems to be making things less scary.”