Methodist pioneers use of heart failure monitor - February 20, 2015

Courtesy of The Post-Tribune

February 20, 2015 • Merrillville

By Christin Nance Lazerus, Contact Reporter • Post-Tribune

Merrillville resident Ed Sperka is familiar with the signs at this point. Sperka has heart failure and cardiopulmonary disease, so his legs swell up, his weight goes up and soon he’s back in the hospital for an angiogram and further treatment.

But now, rather than simply recognizing the signs, Sperka and other heart failure patients can sit on a pillow each morning and a device implanted in their pulmonary artery measures the pressure in the artery. The information is relayed to a secure website where nurse practitioner Kathy Gjeldum checks the number and looks for any warning trends.

“We get real-time data on pulmonary pressure,” Gjeldum said. “So we know something’s going on before he’s even symptomatic.”

The new heart failure monitoring device is helping residents avoid unnecessary hospitalization and allowing nurses and doctors to better adjust their treatment.

Since Sperka had the small device implanted in his groin on Feb. 4, two incidents have been mitigated by adjustments in medication rather than a hospitalization. Five other patients underwent the procedure on Feb. 4, and Dr. Kais Yehyawi said they are doing well.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the CardioMEMS HF System recently, and Methodist has implanted the device in at least 16 patients so far.

Yehyawi, a cardiologist, said the device assists physicians in improving patient outcomes.

“Patients with congestive heart failure have a tendency to be rehospitalized,” Yehyawi said. “This changes the paradigm by helping us to be more proactive.”

Sperka first started experiencing shortness of breath three years ago. Doctors discovered that three veins were blocked and they performed open heart surgery, but were only able to reopen one. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure at that point and he uses an oxygen tank.

Sperka said the inpatient procedure took about 40 minutes under local anesthesia. He said he talked to the doctor the entire time.

The device — which is the size of a dime and has metal loops on either end — works like a radio antenna to measure and transmit the data. It is designed to last the lifetime of the patient and doesn’t interfere with a pacemaker or defibrillator.

It takes a bit of practice to sit in the correct stance to get a reading, Sperka said, but the device is pretty straightforward — playing music while measurements are being taken then saying “reading has been completed.”

Sperka said he hasn’t felt markedly different since the procedure, but he has lost 20 pounds in the past couple weeks and his lungs looked better at a recent appointment.

Sperka’s wife, Pat, appreciates the peace of mind that the device represents.

“Rather than thinking that something might be wrong and going to the hospital, we know something is wrong if the doctor’s office calls us,” she said.