HCN News & Notes

Baystate Introduces CardioMEMS Technology to Better Manage Heart Failure

SPRINGFIELD — A transformative new technology, the CardioMEMS system, now available at Baystate Medical Center, is reducing hospitalizations and improving quality of life.

Patients living with heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure, are constantly trying to guess how their heart is doing based on how they feel. Common symptoms like shortness of breath or fatigue could be a sign of a serious heart-failure exacerbation, or something as simple as a common cold. The CardioMEMS system takes the guesswork out of managing heart failure.

“The CardioMEMS device is truly a game changer and is now offered to patients in consultation with our Advanced Heart Disease Program at Baystate Medical Center,” said cardiologist Dr. Leeor Jaffe of the Heart and Vascular Program at Baystate.

The Baystate Heart and Vascular Program offers a collaborative team approach to patients who may benefit from CardioMEMS implantation led by Jaffe and interventional cardiologist Dr. Gregory Giugliano. The team works together to identify appropriate patients, implant the device, and then tailor medical therapy to optimize heart failure.

“One of the biggest challenges in treating heart failure is identifying patients who are retaining excess fluid and treating them before they end up in the hospital,” Jaffe said. “Prior to CardioMEMS, we mostly relied on patients letting us know when they were feeling worse, often too late. Now, we can treat fluid buildup even before it becomes symptomatic.”

The CardioMEMS system uses a penny-sized wireless sensor that is implanted into one of the arteries in the lung during a 30-minute, minimally invasive procedure. The sensor measures pressure in the heart, and the patient leaves the hospital with a home unit, which transmits readings from the sensor directly to the heart-failure clinic.

“It’s like putting in an early-warning system that alerts doctors if things are headed in the wrong direction. We can then make the appropriate medication changes to correct the problem,” said Giugliano, director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at Baystate Medical Center.

According to research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th annual Scientific Session last March, in the year following placement of a CardioMEMS heart-failure sensor, patients experienced a nearly 60% reduction in hospitalization for heart failure.

One of those patients benefiting from reduced hospitalizations is Janice Rice of Monson, who was the first patient to have the device implanted at Baystate.

A native of Connecticut, who moved to Tennessee for 13 years before returning to New England, Rice has a long history of heart disease beginning with atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat that increases stroke risk. For this reason, patients with atrial fibrillation are often prescribed a blood thinner. However, Rice developed bleeding issues with this medication. Cardiologists at Baystate recommended the WATCHMAN device, another state-of-the-art, minimally invasive procedure that can reduce the risk of clot formation in the heart and lowers the risk of stroke. Baystate Medical Center is the only hospital in Western Mass. that currently offers the WATCHMAN device.

“I’ve been in and out of the hospital, both Baystate Wing Hospital and Baystate Medical Center, with complications of heart failure since returning to the area,” Rice said.

It was while in Baystate for the WATCHMAN procedure that Rice and her nearly monthly hospitalizations for heart failure came to the attention of Jaffe, who recommended CardioMEMS.

“He reviewed my records and told me I would be a good candidate for CardioMEMS and asked if I was willing to undergo the procedure. I told him, ‘you betcha! At this point, I am willing to try anything to stay out of the hospital,’” Rice said. “I have lost 60 pounds and no longer have any shortness of breath. CardioMEMS has been a miracle for me. Dr. Jaffe saved my life.”