February 11, 2005

New device can detect dangerous fluid buildup

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This device is able to detect fluid buildup in patients' chests.

New device can detect dangerous fluid buildup

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is the first hospital in the state and one of only 20 in the world to employ a novel device to predict the hospitalization of heart failure patients up to two weeks in advance.

The device, the Medtronic Insync Sentry Heart Failure ICD, is able to detect fluid accumulation in the chest, which is a key sign that a patient’s condition is worsening and hospitalization is imminent, with an average stay of five days. The device is a component of an implantable cardioverter defribillator.

The Sentry device is an approach to care that Mark Wathen, M.D., associate professor of Medicine, said will allow him to treat and manage heart failure at an earlier stage.

“When you have heart failure, you collect fluid in your chest, which makes it difficult for a person to breathe because air can not circulate,” he said. “This often is not known until most patients are in dire need of hospitalization to remove the fluid and treat other complications. This device can detect accumulation of fluid two weeks prior to a patient’s need for hospitalization.”

According to Wathen, congestive heart failure is the number one Medicare admission cost in the country – nearly a quarter of a million admits annually. An estimated 5 million people are affected with the disorder.

“Patients can now get a device that is going to prevent many of these heart failure admissions,” Wathen said. “This may become a large savings for the health care system.”

Wathen said the new component is threaded through a defibrillator and has three leads with electrodes that touch the right atrium, the right ventricle and the left ventricle of the heart.

The noteworthy aspect of the device is the monitoring capability that can measure the amount of fluid in the chest.

“Patients will not have to come into physician offices, clinics or hospitals,” said Wathen. “We are exchanging those visits with telephone calls. “

In the future, Wathen said the Sentry would be used in correlation with pacemakers.