Heart patients get “at home” monitoring

Patients with heart problems who are under the care of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital's cardiology team are being kitted out with home transmitters that constantly “talk” to their hi-tech implants and beam information back to the hospital.

In a first for this region, the first five patients, who all have cardiac problems that mean they have implanted pacemakers or defibrillators that can help prolong their life. They have been issued with radio frequency transmitters for use at home. The transmitters monitor their devices and beam data back to the cardiology physiology team.

Heart failure devices are pacemakers used to resynchronise the heart to make it pump more effectively. Some of these devices are also implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) that help deal with heart rhythm disorders known as arrhythmia. Now some potential problems with the patients condition or device can be identified quickly and without the patient coming to hospital for extra visits. The new system will first be used by five patients with St Jude Medical devices.

Senior Chief Cardiac Physiologist Ali Allen said: “We have more than 5,000 patients who are fitted with pacemakers and another 500 that have ICDs. We are the first in the region to provide this at home monitoring service. This is a small beginning but over time we would expect many more patients to benefit from this type of technology. This system will definitely help improve the quality of life for our patients as it will pick up any potential problems early on.”

Heart failure devices

Pacemakers – the job of a pacemaker is to artificially take over the role of the heart's natural pacemaker, the sinus node. Electrical impulses are sent by the pacemaker to stimulate the heart to contract and produce a heartbeat. Pacemakers work just when they are needed when the heart rate slows or when the heart rhythm needs reorganising.Pacemakers do not give the heart an electrical shock

A pacemaker has a pulse generator – a battery powered electronic circuit – and one or more electrode leads. Most pacemakers are smaller than an average matchbox and weight about 20 to 50 grams. A pacemaker usually sits just under the collarbone and has one or more leads which are placed into the heart via a vein. 

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators – involve a small metal generator attached to one or sometimes two leads which are connected to the heart normally via the veins. The leads monitor the heart rhythm. If the heart rhythm becomes erratic or very fast the ICD delivers an electrical charge (21-41 joules) to the heart or send a series of pulses down the leads. On average the battery life of the ICD will last four to seven years before needing to be replaced.

Thursday 27th of August 2009 09:00:33 AM